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Bell Labs Builds Cheap Telepresence 'Robots'

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the what's-your-avatar dept.

AI 65

schliz writes "Alcatel-Lucent's research arm, Bell Labs, is building low-cost robots that represent remote participants in meeting rooms. Researchers hope it will address the issue of the natural, non-verbal 'voting mechanism,' by which people determine who should speak based on who most people are looking at. The technology will likely be priced in the 'hundreds of dollars,' rather than the tens of thousands that the likes of Cisco and Polycom charge for high-end telepresence rooms."

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65 comments

yea, you know what? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37970716)

its still just a computer on a stand with some over-engineered RC car junk attached.

Re:yea, you know what? (-1, Troll)

M.Kristopeit84 (2469800) | more than 2 years ago | (#37970750)

and just what the fuck woudl you know about it you retarded cunt? grow up

Re:yea, you know what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37970966)

Is that the official position of Bell Labs?

Re:yea, you know what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37971036)

I did something similar to this for a final year project for my degree. Shoved an RC tank thing with localisation and positioning equipment with a cheap Chinese screen on top with a camera with a precise offset to known position and with a recorded angle. We then used an picoITX system for each "robot" and took the video feed and identified where people were looking. Given our known position and angles and the collection of data gathered by each of the robots we were able to coordinate them to move whenever focus shifted to different people, but in the end it was just "a computer on a stand with some over-engineered RC car junk attached" so the only retarded cunt here is you douchebag. This shit ain't exactly special unless it's on the shelves right now with high reliability and cost effectiveness.

Hope the aren't like their modems. (1)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37970720)

Besides that though, what is the point of having a robotic "remote presence" for a meeting? What's wrong with a a telephone or even videos? I think that those researchers have been watching to many movies.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (0)

M.Kristopeit84 (2469800) | more than 2 years ago | (#37970772)

it's you vs. some of the smartest men on the planet. who do you think wins?

ad hominem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37970792)

the point stands. Either this is something new, or it's just some dumb skype peripheral.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37970862)

Check my dubs instead.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971238)

Are you saying smart people can't have dumb ideas? How about Vista? Apple pippin? MSFT Bob? Smart people can have dumb ideas just like everyone else Mikey. BTW how many UIDs did you end up going to before you switched handles? Just curious.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (4, Interesting)

arkenian (1560563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37970880)

actually, I can totally see the point of what they're trying for. The absolute most difficult part of a teleconference is managing when/how people speak, and all the nonverbal cues we use in 'real' meetings to handle this. Videoconferencing doesn't usually fix the issue if you've got more than two sites. Some sort of reliable technology that could give me real non-verbal feedback as to what's going on in a meeting for managing speakers would be awesome. Though I have a hard time believing that any system could currently really achieve anything that wasn't just another approach to strictly-moderated (which you can do just fine with text-chat during a telecon)

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (0)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971750)

" The absolute most difficult part of a teleconference is managing when/how people speak,"

really? then the person that set up the teleconference is not doing his/her job. It is their job to keep everything moving and to cue people to talk.
Plus who does phone only conferences anymore? with videoconference this eliminates this.

Problem is for some reason far end Conference rooms are all in dungeons. Or the executives there ignore their AV engineers and don't install proper lighting in the room and at least a 10,000 lumen projector or use a plasma to overcome the added lighting needed for the cameras.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973556)

Or the executives there ignore their AV engineers and don't install proper lighting in the room and at least a 10,000 lumen projector or use a plasma to overcome the added lighting needed for the cameras.

Thar's yer problem. We have the sensors and signal processing today to not require a TV-studio installation for video conferencing. This stuff is wrapped up in $30,000 gear at the moment, but apply some Moore's Law (and hope against patent law) and we should see video conference gear that can be plunked down in a normal office conference room and work well within the decade. By then everybody should have the bandwidth required to support the HD streams too.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (2)

Rennt (582550) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971062)

Have you done much teleconferencing? The extended, awkward silences as nobody knows who is supposed to be talking are a real problem. Not a serious problem mind you, but there is definitely room for improvement.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972644)

That's what the chairman should control. If they have a proper agenda, it helps.

People playing with the camera is my biggest headache. Leave the thing alone man! I can see your presention if you email it before hand. I can see it if you push the big "Go" button on the remote. I don't need you to point the camera at the projection screen, or even worse, point it at the 50 inch plasma. In fact, I can control your camera from my end if you front the money for something decent.

The mircophone placement is the next biggest headache. Mine is a plastic sheet above the table. It work well. Yours is a nasty piece of work from PC World, and it needs to be on the table in front of you, not near the camera. Stop chinking the tea cups too!

Me daydreaming is the third biggest problem. "Can you repeat yourself as I wasn't listening?" creates roars of laughter. In reality, the meeting is boring and that's why I was daydreaming about sport and naked women (that should be a new sport BTW).

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973084)

I used to do it all the time, and none of the companies I was with ever showed evidence of it aside from the rare person who just wasn't very good speaking in any situation. I'm going with the sentiment that it's mostly about the people running the meeting, and not the nature of it.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971178)

I've joined plenty of teleconferences (mainly with engineers, though), and don't remember ever having a problem with just telephones.

I've done a few video conferences, and didn't feel the video was adding anything. Also, often some party will have a video problem, and you waste a lot of time trying to get it fixed during the meeting.

Robots seem like complete overkill. They also don't work when joining the conference from places where you don't have all that infrastructure set up, like at home.

What is the point? (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971938)

Did you ever take acid? Just hearing about these things makes me want to go find some.

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972156)

Besides that though, what is the point of having a robotic "remote presence" for a meeting? What's wrong with a a telephone or even videos? I think that those researchers have been watching to many movies.

A TV or video device is not capable of giving hand-jobs, reach-arounds, or pounding that sweet, sweet ass on the conference table.

Just sayin'

Re:Hope the aren't like their modems. (1)

smitty97 (995791) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972498)

What do you mean? My trusty Bell 212A has never dro)(*@$#qFw&^h^ +++NO CARRIER

Already got 'em. (-1, Flamebait)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#37970848)

...building low-cost robots that represent remote participants in meeting rooms.

My employer already buys these from India.

Re:Already got 'em. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37970938)

If your employer buys these robots from India, as atheists claim, then why did he actually buy them from Japan?

Re:Already got 'em. (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#37974644)

...building low-cost robots that represent remote participants in meeting rooms.

My employer already buys these from India.

OK, moderators, cut the guy some slack. Yes, he should have said "...from various offshore locations where under-skilled workers are cheap and plentiful...", but since India has pretty much cornered that market, it's probably not fair to jump to the conclusion that it was intentionally racist.

Re:Already got 'em. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37974944)

Given that the Asshat Levels here are in the greater than 50% range, the OP's moderation is expected.

And please, Slashdot is full of anti-India / anti-offshoring rants.

Could we.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37970922)

Re-purpose them to inflict pain on people at the other end of the meeting?
Perhaps my dream of being able to punch people over the internet is closer to being realised?

Re:Could we.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37971160)

Please lean forward and learn.

IRC Bot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37970936)

How is this different from IRC Bots?

voting mechanism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37970978)

"non-verbal 'voting mechanism,' by which people determine who should speak based on who most people are looking at."

interesting theory, but wouldn't that mean that the new manager's boobs should speak?

Eye tracking (1)

imunfair (877689) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971060)

It would be more interesting if they created a solution with eye tracking that lit up counter LEDs in front of the people in the board room, or one of the monitors. That seems like it would be far more high tech and efficient, and if done right would be pretty easy to understand/use. It would also work for the remote users - not just the boardroom participants - since they'd have their LEDs light up on remote location when people were focusing on them, giving a good indication that they had the floor to talk.

Camera angle issue (2)

danielsfca2 (696792) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971068)

Is the robot "face" screen going to be showing the live video of the person's face? If so, since presumably you don't have a Steadicam operator staying directly in front of each human being represented by robots at all times, this is going to look weird. It will be hard to even keep your face in frame as you naturally move around, swivel your chair, etc. Even if your face can somehow be properly framed, the front of your robot face (which itself swivels) will keep showing the sides of your face as you turn to look at various people.

This can be avoided at the great expense of losing the live video of the person--you can just put a static picture of the person's face on the bot, but this seems a big step back from a regular videoconference--you can't see the person's facial expressions.

Not to mention, this enhances a SINGLE nonverbal body language feature (direction of head pointing) while utterly destroying all other nonverbal information you get from a plain old videoconference, including overall posture, hand gestures, etc. The robot can't fold its arms, make a gesture, tilt its head side to side, etc.

I think this idea is quite a stretch.

Re:Camera angle issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37971870)

...and, will they somehow put the camera into the screen itself? Even if you do maintain head-and-shoulders in frame, you're going to be looking at the person you're speaking to's boobs rather than looking them in the eye.

Re:Camera angle issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37974638)

Well, I always do that anyway.

Re:Camera angle issue (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972934)

Also, I don't know if these robots can correctly capture the exasperated sigh or the nodding of someone fighting a good nap. Seems like this is a lot of engineering to fix a problem that didn't really need a much better solution than what we already had in place. Now if they could create a hologram that would be helpful.

Re:Camera angle issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37974538)

Meh. Each seat gets one of those Microsoft motion detection things to read body position, and each empty seat gets a furby or tickle me elmo or whatnot. Problem solved.

Large slabs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37971080)

All I can think when thinking of non-holographic telepresence is the large slabs used by Seele in Evangelion. [wikia.com]

It's intimidating.

Re:Large slabs (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#37975634)

I was just going to ask if that would be one of the options. Because if they actually use a system "by which people determine who should speak based on who most people are looking at" you know the guy who springs for the giant slab with huge glowing letters on it is going to get to speak all the time.

Future of garage startups (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971144)

The future of hardware oriented garage startups is robotics. You know how Apple and Michael Dell etc. started out building computers .. well that's past. But it's still possible to build a physical product in your garage (besides software) .. and that's a robotic device.

Oh crap - I know what's coming next (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971166)

Talkie Toaster.

Re:Oh crap - I know what's coming next (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972244)

For anyone who didn't get the reference, it's the most annoying character ever on Red Dwarf [youtube.com] (and that's saying a lot, given the existence of that total smeghead Rimmer).

Yeah... great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37971314)

Now when will I sleep...

They need to make them look like well-known robots (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971400)

Personally, I'd want my robot stand-in to look like Crow. But I could understand some people preferring to have a Dalek represent them.

Re:They need to make them look like well-known rob (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971414)

DALEK'S AREN'T ROBOTS! There's no emoticon for what I'm feeling.

Re:They need to make them look like well-known rob (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38035650)

I eagerly await the "EXTERMINATE!" emoticon.

Re:They need to make them look like well-known rob (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37971780)

I'm a Dalek and I'm a robot as much as any human on a wheelchair is a car, you insensitive clod!

Re:They need to make them look like well-known rob (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972678)

I'm a Dalek and I'm a robot

exactly.

And yet.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37971726)

We still dont have affordable video conference phones.

How about creating a Video conference standard and forcing the world to adhere to it instead of the fragmented mess we have now?

Re:And yet.... (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973406)

We still dont have affordable video conference phones.

How cheap do you need? I have this Grandstream [amazon.com] on my desk at work, and it does h.264 over SIP and Skype with a full-duplex speakerphone for $180. Runs Linux internally.

Misleading Summary (1)

audubon (577473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972136)

The technology will likely be priced in the 'hundreds of dollars,' rather than the tens of thousands that the likes of Cisco and Polycom charge for high-end telepresence rooms.

And that's because this is not a "high-end telepresence room"; it's a "low-cost camera and screen that swivels on a set of robotic shoulders, and sits at a meeting table with physical attendees." Apples and oranges.

Not a replacement for immersive telepresence (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972184)

From the article :

Bouwen highlighted the value of a “turn-taking mechanism” that determines who should be next to speak.

In person, two people who begin to speak to a group at the same time tend to take their cues from the direction in which most group members are looking.

Those subtle cues are lost in current videoconferences, Bouwen said.

Note the subtle shift from telepresence to videoconference. The whole point of telepresence is that these sorts of cues ("gaze awareness," in the industry) are not lost. Polycom, Cisco, etc., are very aware of this and work hard to make this happen.

I don't think these sort of robots would replace telepresence rooms, but would be used (as the article says) in meetings with only one remote participants.

Oh, and robots like this are already on the market [thenextweb.com].

Automatic meeting transcription is what's needed (1)

billrp (1530055) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972272)

Just 2 or 3 fixed wide angle cameras in the conference room, automatic identification of speakers in the video, and text-only transcripts or video annotated with subtitle-like real time text for people who are just observing and don't have a headset. This is also an archive recording of the meeting. Robotic cameras in a conference room would just be a playful annoyance.

Been done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972278)

Didn't we already do this with a bunch of Big Mouth Billy Bass?

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