21st Century Robotics (Scientific American Special Online by Scientific American

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Extra info for 21st Century Robotics (Scientific American Special Online Issue No. 14)

Sample text

A telepresence robot is typically equipped with a video camera, a microphone, and a wireless transmitter that enables it to send signals to an Internet connection. If a user at a remote location logs on to the right Web page, he or she can see what the robot sees and hear what the robot hears. What’s more, the user can move the machine from place to place simply by clicking on the mouse. With the help of artificial-intelligence software and various sensors, telepresence robots can roam down hallways without bumping into walls and even climb flights of stairs.

Just like any PC, it has ports on its backside for a monitor, keyboard, mouse, Ethernet cable and so on. But untethering the machine is only a matter of plugging an inexpensive WiFi receiver into the motherboard. Burick uses his laptop to log in over the wireless link. “Okay, MAY 2004 this software is now running on the robot,” he says as he launches the Robot Control Center, a program he has licensed from Evolution Robotics. Clicking on buttons in the program, he drives the robot toward a 20-year-old Heath Hero Junior robot gathering dust in the corner.

What’s more, the user can move the machine from place to place simply by clicking on the mouse. With the help of artificial-intelligence software and various sensors, telepresence robots can roam down hallways without bumping into walls and even climb flights of stairs. Until now, businesspeople have relied on techniques such as videoconferencing to participate in meetings that they can’t attend. Anyone who’s seen a videoconference, though, knows how frustrating the experience can be. Unless the participants are sitting right in front of the camera, it’s often difficult to understand what they’re saying.

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