Roboticist Maja Mataric from the Interaction Laboratory at the University of Southern California makes the case in her paper Embodiment and Human-Robot Interaction that: “If the robot does not need to engage in a physical contact task, what is the reason for using a robot at all? Would a computer or personal digital assistant (PDA) suffice?”
Point well taken. Revolve Robotics agrees and delivered Kubi.
Kubi means “neck” in Japanese and that’s just what this new telepresence product is supposed to reproduce. This rig, designed to work with any tablet, essentially creates a user-controlled pivoting system that allows the person you are video-calling to control the position, angle, and rotation of the tablet camera.
Non-embodiment…and it’s cheaper
It’s not amazingly complex nor is it completely mobile, facts that make Kubi far more interesting for, say, a small office or conference room. Controlling Kubi’s neck, the caller can look around the room, tilt the camera up and down, and keep the camera and tablet a safe distance from the proceedings.
Marcus Rosenthal and Ilya Polyakov, both of whom have extensive experience in robotics, said that they didn’t want Kubi to be mobile “because motors are expensive” and the batteries used to power an upright robot would be prohibitively costly. In short, it was far simpler to create a cool telepresence system than a sub-par roaming robot.
By giving each party control over their view, the Kubi becomes a sort of surrogate head rather than a stationary webcam. Being able to move from person to person and look each participant in the eye is a cool feeling.
They’re selling pre-orders of the device for $200 and are looking for further funding to the tune of $200,000. Could be a steal.