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Robotic Presence For a Telecommuter

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the spooky-action-at-a-distance dept.

Robotics 186

McGregorMortis writes "Ivan lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and telecommutes to work in Waterloo, Ontario. But in meetings, speaker-phones suck: can't hear everybody, can't move around, no visual contact. So Ivan made an IvanAnywhere robot to give him a physical presence in the office. If Ivan wants to talk to a coworker, he just steers radio-controlled IvanAnywhere into that person's office for a chat."

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Brilliant (5, Insightful)

Svw (1107541) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476493)

This is awesome, the possibilities that could open up for telecommuters is incredible. I can see a feasible market for this where telecommuters are assigned a robot as their virtual presence at work so that they feel more a part of the company than an outsourced employee.

Re:Brilliant (1)

kgp_crap (997022) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476521)

I dont think so.
How exactly is this different from calling someone up ? (Except for visual contact )
And what would happen if you had a lot of people not coming to office because of this..
Would your robots go around meeting other robots ?

Re:Brilliant (4, Insightful)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476619)

"How exactly is this different from calling someone up ? (Except for visual contact )

Chatting in the lunch room? Joining a conversation already happening - in the lunch room?

Most people don't call someone else to say the same joke that they call over the cubicle walls, and this helps people get to know each other, and work together. BTW the idea for this robot started as a joke just like this.

Oh, and the visual contact matters a lot - as TFA said, seeing what others scribbled on the whiteboard.

T

Erm... (2, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476831)

So basically instead of calling someone to tell him a joke, you'd spend a few minutes steering a robot to hang around the lunch room with other people's robots.

Not to mention why would you have an excuse to be steering your robot around the lunch room or water cooler anyway? It's not like the robot can actually drink that water to quench your thirst across the country. So basically you'd take your normal RL breaks to eat or get a coffee in your home, then _also_ spend some time steering the robot around the coffee machine or lunch room in the office too. Does that sound like a productive use of time to you?

And if I'm trying to work on something, I'll soo appreciate someone driving a robot into my room to tell me a joke. Instead of, I dunno, just forwarding as an email I can read at my leisure. No really. Seeing a metal contraption trying to chat me up is so going to say "social interaction" and "the guy was probably just on his way to the coffee machine and dropped by." Dunno, it would tell me that the guy just spent some time driving the robot around just to chat to someone instead of working. It's not like the robot needed a coffee.

And in the lunch room? Man, I'll totally appreciate having to dodge robots in there too, as opposed to just the people there to have lunch. Oh, wait...

Visual contact? Whatever happened to a web cam? Then I can see you and you can see me. Whereas if we steer our robots around the office, I see your robot and you see mine. Yeah, so they haul a screen too, but now nstead of just seeing you as seen by your camera, I get to have the extra layer of having my camera capture your robot's screen. Yeah, that'll be sooo much more social. Not.

Here's an idea: the technology for visual contact has existed for a long time already. It's called video conferencing. What he's doing there is nothing more than adding a robot to move the camera and screen around. It's solving a problem we had already solved, and adding an unecessary layer to it.

Why? I already have my PC's screen, I can jolly well open a window to see his mug. Exactly why do I need a robot hauling his screen around? If it's important for him to see me, then why can't management just buy a cheap web cam for every PC?

Which would also let him see notes on whiteboards. Just hook one up in the conference room and point it at the whiteboard. There you go.

Exactly what does the robot add there? Just the fact that instead of calling me instantly and focusing on the conversation, he gets to also steer it around and fiddle with the controls while talking?

Re:Erm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20477195)

And in the lunch room? Man, I'll totally appreciate having to dodge robots in there too, as opposed to just the people there to have lunch. Oh, wait...

In other words, you just don't like people.

I suggest a lock for your office door. That way neither the robots or the people will be able to bother you.

Re:Erm... (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477245)

I suggest that he works from home and just uses a robot, possibly fitted with a 9mm pistol, to communicate with his office workers. This could spawn a whole new generation of FPSs.

We did already try using an AIBO and putting it on the table in our conference room, it was rather amusing, and also worked well (they have a speaker, camera and Wi-Fi built in, so you can control it and talk through it, was pretty cool). Shame that one of the managers just left it lying on its charger for 2 years and knackered the battery.. he should have just given it to me to take home!

Re:Erm... (2, Informative)

khakipuce (625944) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477269)

Read the article, it addresses most of your concerns. Clearly there is no point in having an office full of robots, it only has meaning where one or two team members are separated from the rest. I work in an open-plan office, which is common in the UK and it has benefits and problems. One of the benefits is that I can see who in the team is at their desk, who is on the phone, who is getting a coffee, etc. So if I need to ask someone a question I can wait until they are at their desk and then go over and ask. The issue with telecommuting is that If I phone up the person may be away from their desk, which then disturbs someone else, who has to take a message, etc. The robot solves this problem, it also allows the telecommuter to decide whether to make sensible and less intrusive decisions, Jane is tlaking to John, I'll wait until they have finished before talking to Jane ...

Re:Erm... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20477281)

Here's an idea: the technology for visual contact has existed for a long time already. It's called video conferencing. What he's doing there is nothing more than adding a robot to move the camera and screen around. It's solving a problem we had already solved, and adding an unecessary layer to it.
---
Yes, and video conferencing has _sucked_ for a long time already. The problem has _not_ been solved; this guy is trying something radically different to fix the problem. Though I agree with some of your points, the ingenuity should be rewarded, not mocked.

Re:Erm... (4, Insightful)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477299)

For a company where all employees (or just a majority) telecommute, this robot is pointless - for the reasons you stated. A virtual world makes more sense - or simply videoconferencing. This is good for one or two telecommuters and a bunch of people at the office. It makes a lot of sense for that.

Your excuse for steering the robot around? Sure the robot doesn't drink water - but your co-workers do, and you need to interact with them to do your job effectively. You don't drive your robot around to tell a joke any more than you walk across the building to tell a joke. but if a joke comes to mind, and he just happens to be walking by.... Conversations that wouldn't have otherwise happened occur, and important stuff gets said.

"What he's doing there is nothing more than adding a robot to move the camera and screen around. It's solving a problem we had already solved, and adding an unnecessary layer to it.

Only, you see, videoconferencing didn't work well enough, and allowing the camera and screen to move, that worked better. A cheap webcam at every PC? And the lunchroom, and the hallway, and the conference room, with screens to match? The robot is cheaper, less invasive of privacy, and works better.

What (else) does the robot add? instead of calling you and instantly getting your #@$% voicemail, I can go find you and chat with Joe along the way, which I would never have done otherwise. Maybe Joe then tells me something important too, or I can help him.

It almost sounds to me like the reason you see no use for this robot, is because you see no use for talking to your co-workers without an issue to discuss. You aren't the manager by chance are you?

T

Let's put it this way (3, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478081)

Dude, read again what you're trying to tell me there: that you'd take some time to stroll around -- in person or with that robot -- for no other reason and benefit than that there might be someone along the way to talk to. And that doesn't sound to you like a deliberate waste of your employer's time?

Now I can understand that when it just happens naturally and unplanned. Say you just needed a cup of coffee, Joe was at the coffee machine, a conversation just started while waiting your turn. Fine. I can't ask you to sit at your desk and dehydrate, if you need a coffee, can I?

But here you're telling me no less than that you'd take that robot for a stroll for the _sole_ reason that there might be a Joe along the way in a mood to talk. I.e., planned, deliberate, doing anything else than working in that time.

Yes, team bonding, social experience, team members getting used to each other, bla, bla, bla. I've heard all that before. Repeatedly. I'll even tell you from whom: the most unproductive parasites on every team. There's always someone who has a good reason as to why he's somewhere else than at his workstation, chatting about his vacation. Again. For half the freaking day. The problem is that these people rarely contribute much to the team anyway. By their theory they should be the damn glue and life of the team, but in practice they're the guy who just doesn't have the personality type to sit and program. And it's the rest of us who get to pick the slack and do his work too. Worse yet, most of them don't just waste their own time, they go waste someone else's time too.

Now I'm not accusing you of being that kind of type, because I don't even know you. I can't make an informed judgment. So I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you're just excited about the nerdy part of building a robot, and are willing to rationalize it to extremes. Or whatever else. I'll give you that benefit of the doubt. But if I were to take at face value that you actually do take strolls through the company just because someone might be along the way who's willing to chat, well, then see the above paragraph.

You'd be surprised how little socializing on the employer's time is actually required for that team to work. No, I'm not saying you shouldn't talk to your co-workers at all, far from it. I'm saying that if you have to take a trip for the sole reason that you might meet someone to talk to, that's already too much. You already have meetings with those co-workers, you already talk to them about work-related stuff, etc, and there's nothing stopping you from doing more socializing after work on your own free time. (I've been to pizza or to a pub after work with my co-worker several times this summer alone.) You know those guys already. Taking an extra socializing break will add at most a little delta to that.

If your team was dysfunctional without those long strolls to find someone to talk to, then it will be just as dysfunctional (if not more) with everyone taking strolls around and talking about their vacation.

And, oh, if stuff that's _important_ or needs your _help_ actually depends on the chance of you meeting Joe randomly at the water cooler, I'd say your company has a bigger problem already. In any sane place, if Joe needs your help, he'd have a better way to contact you. If projects or continued business actually depend on that kind of random chances, I'd start worrying and post my resume on Monster in advance. Because at some point some shit is gonna hit the fan just because Joe went to the coffee machine half an hour too late.

It almost sounds to me like the reason you see no use for this robot, is because you see no use for talking to your co-workers without an issue to discuss. You aren't the manager by chance are you?


I'm not a manager, but I don't take that as a insult either. Especially in this context. If any manager wanted to protest against someone's deliberately going for a time wasting trip instead of working, dunno, I might even like that manager.

Re:Erm... (2, Interesting)

CodyRazor (1108681) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478015)

ok iv noticed this trick works well for increasing post rating: 'il probably get moded flamebait but...' man youd make the worst boss... It sounds like your a bean counter type who immediatly sees the lack of 'productivity' in any new idea. A bit of humor, some new ideas and some novelty go a long way in a workplace, and do a lot more for morale and productivity than robot-like efficiency ever could.

Re:Brilliant (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476637)

And what would happen if you had a lot of people not coming to office because of this..

We'd save a lot more energy spent commuting.

Re:Brilliant (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478959)

Next: IvanOnMars

Re:Brilliant (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20477055)

How about instead of telecommuting you get off your fucking ass and come in to work like everyone else. I'm so sick of lazy people that sit around their house all day pretending to work while the rest of us have to pick up the slack in the office for them.

The temptation... (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478093)

To hang a sign under the screen with an arrow pointing up and the word "nerd" on it would be really high...

Re:Brilliant (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 7 years ago | (#20479439)

This is awesome, the possibilities that could open up for telecommuters is incredible. I can see a feasible market for this where telecommuters are assigned a robot as their virtual presence at work so that they feel more a part of the company than an outsourced employee.
Yes, and this would also maximize the synergy attainable by duplicating the essence of the human-to-human interaction that is achieved through the actual presence of the employees on the company premises, thus optimizing the efficiency factor derived by the actual presence of employees under the watchful eye of their supervisors thus justifying the increased status of the supervisor, thus increasing their self-perceived worth.

Video conferencing no use? (4, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476497)

The best way I've seen it done is with a big screen, it looks like the two rooms are joined in the middle when it's running.
 

Re:Video conferencing no use? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476601)

RTFA -- the problem is that people have conversations all over the place, and the telecommuter wants to be able to participate. You can't get people to hang out in front of the VC unit all the time; they're going to strike up a conversation in an office or a hallway. There are too many places for you to put cameras and screens everywhere, and if you did, you'd freak the hell out of people.

With the robot, if he hears an interesting conversation in the distance, he can have the robot wander over so he can join in. Or he can have the robot wander the halls and talk to people as he bumps into them (literally or figuratively).

IOW, the VC tech is adapting to the way people work, instead of the other way around.

Re:Video conferencing no use? (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476833)

There are too many places for you to put cameras and screens everywhere, and if you did, you'd freak the hell out of people. With the robot, if he hears an interesting conversation in the distance, he can have the robot wander over so he can join in.

And of course that wouldn't freak them out at all

Re:Video conferencing no use? (1)

gronofer (838299) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476897)

And of course that wouldn't freak them out at all

Oddly enough this is discussed in the article:

The robot's coming-out party, and his first voyage off the third floor, came at a co-worker's anniversary celebration in late May.

Some iAnywhere employees who had not been privy to IvanAnywhere's development were shocked to find a computer-on-a-stick hobnobbing with the guests.

"There were a few people who thought this was just freaky," Paulley says. "They were a little taken aback and didn't quite believe themselves that this was actually Ivan, and he was actually there."

...

But in the three months since IvanAnywhere first went online, he has become such a normal part of the third floor at iAnywhere that co-workers barely even notice they're talking to a machine rather than to Bowman's human form.

"We are all so used to Ivan, they don't even give it a second thought," says Glenn Paulley, Bowman's boss and the originator of the IvanAnywhere idea.

Re:Video conferencing no use? (2, Insightful)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476985)

Now, if this robot would do the chit-chat and socializing stuff for you autonomously and then report to you the relevant information, that would be a feature.

Re:Video conferencing no use? (1)

gronofer (838299) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477053)

Now, if this robot would do the chit-chat and socializing stuff for you autonomously and then report to you the relevant information, that would be a feature.
That would be awesome.

Re:Video conferencing no use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20477097)

Better still, if you had a GIRL robot, she could go into the girl's bathroom and catch up on all the gossip and report back to you.

Re:Video conferencing no use? (4, Funny)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477177)

Better still, if you had a GIRL robot, she could go into the girl's bathroom and catch up on all the gossip and report back to you.
This robot has a CAMERA. In the girl's bathroom.

Here, let me draw you a picture of the pertinent bits:

(.)(.)
 
  \/
I could probably care less about the gossip, but it would require a conscious effort, and I don't really care, so...

Anyway, back to surfing bad ASCII pr0n!

Re:Video conferencing no use? (1)

TobyRush (957946) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478765)

Wow. I had never thought of it, and apparently neither did Asimov, but there it is:

4. A robot is never allowed in the bathroom.

Re:Video conferencing no use? (2, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 7 years ago | (#20479225)

Never? Even if it violates laws 1, 2 or 3? I can't tell you how many times I expect my robot to save my sorry geriatric self from drowning in the shower when I'm 102 years old.

Re:Video conferencing no use? (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476621)

Halo [hp.com] is a bit like that, looks pretty interesting. The company I do work for is going to set up a few of these in their offices around the world.

That's really an avatar! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476503)

Great achievement! If it becomes common I bet on the birth of a skin and cloths market not unlike the one for the avatars in Second Life.

Re:That's really an avatar! (2, Insightful)

Random Walk (252043) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477043)

While I guess your comment was intended to be fun, I think this is actually a problem where Second Life could be the best possible solution.

Re:That's really an avatar! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20477161)

I didn't intend to be fun. I'm really sure that given thousands of robots like that, a market will emerge for their customizations. Do people really want their robot look like the ones of their colleagues? I bet not, just look at people clothes.

On the other way, getting 100% virtual as in Second Life is probably the most sensible way to do in the long run but it requires everybody to be in a virtual world.

Wow! Isn't Ivan beautiful!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476543)

I want to have sex with her.....

Why don't they share? (1)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476559)

"Meanwhile, other telecommuting employees at iAnywhere, a subsidiary of Sybase Inc., have expressed interest in getting their own robots,"

Can't they share? Wouldn't that be easier than having those things crashing into each other all the time?

I like the 'robot' anyway, sounds like a good solution.

Re:Why don't they share? (4, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476655)

If everyone is going to have one of those robots, why not have virtual robots? In other words, an avatar in a virtual environment. That's precicely what I am involved in at the moment; we're experimenting with virtual conferences in (please don't laugh) Second Life. Our initial take on it is that virtual meetings are not as good as actually being there, but they are a damn sight better than teleconferencing (which sits way down on the list somewhere between getting a root canal treatment, and dropping a kitchen knife on your bare foot pointy side down). They also give much more of a sense of "presence" than videoconferencing. Plus, they allow for teambuilding events as well.

Sadly my suggestion for renting a virtual meeting room in Sauron's tower (in Lord of the Rings Online) was voted down. Oh well...

Why don't they escape reality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20477277)

"If everyone is going to have one of those robots, why not have virtual robots? In other words, an avatar in a virtual environment."

Well isn't this a fine state? Virtual people using collaborative tools in a virtual office. Pretty soon we can just ditch the real planet and save on upkeep.

"Our initial take on it is that virtual meetings are not as good as actually being there, but they are a damn sight better than teleconferencing."

Technological limitation but on the plus side I don't have to smell anyone's BO.

Re:Why don't they share? (1)

riffzifnab (449869) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478083)

So you work for IBM [com.com] or Sun [sun.com] ? Virtual presence, its not just for furries yiffing anymore. d:

Re:Why don't they share? (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478509)

If everyone is going to have one of those robots, why not have virtual robots? In other words, an avatar in a virtual environment. That's precicely what I am involved in at the moment; we're experimenting with virtual conferences in (please don't laugh) Second Life. Our initial take on it is that virtual meetings are not as good as actually being there, but they are a damn sight better than teleconferencing (which sits way down on the list somewhere between getting a root canal treatment, and dropping a kitchen knife on your bare foot pointy side down). They also give much more of a sense of "presence" than videoconferencing. Plus, they allow for teambuilding events as well.
I'm not sure if I'm mature enough to handle that sort of thing. The moment the marketing people joined the room, I think I'd go Leroy Jenkins on their asses.

Re:Why don't they share? (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20479133)

virtual conferences in (please don't laugh) Second Life.

I'm sorry, but it's just not possible to accommodate your request there.

Re:Why don't they share? (1)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476661)

And it'll create peace in the office. No physical fights possible.

On the other hand... robot wars...

B.

Wow, shame I've already alienated my co-workers (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476561)

Otherwise I could do with one of these for my office. I'd also be able to spot when they're stealing the network cables from under my desk! Every time I go in these days I have to hunt one down.

Re:Wow, shame I've already alienated my co-workers (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476675)

Nice idea in theory. In practice, the first network cable they go for is the one coming out of your ass.

"Looks like somebody gets a snow day"

GOAT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476603)

Fun and non-productive uses for this: (5, Funny)

AxminsterLeuven (963108) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476629)

1 - Steer it around the office all day long, shouting "Kill all humans! Kill all humans!"
Anyone else some suggestions?

Re:Fun and non-productive uses for this: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476797)

0 - EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE!

Btw, the captcha for this message was "wasted". Did the server already know what I was about to post when I clicked Reply?

Re:Fun and non-productive uses for this: (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476801)

The robots could vacuum the floors when not in use. Oh ok, that's productive. Never mind

Re:Fun and non-productive uses for this: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476809)

You PC mouthbreathers need to stop deluding yourselves that you need Macs, or even that you're Mac-compatible at all. Real Mac users don't use Macs for the image, you pencil-pushers—it's not about being cool. It's about finding the right OS for your personality. And sorry to say, but most of you people just don't belong on the Mac.

Re:Fun and non-productive uses for this: (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476849)

When anyone approaches it, move the robot away from the person and shout "No disassemble!"

Re:Fun and non-productive uses for this: (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476867)

I'm waiting for "nice software," or for a different show, "bidi bidi bidi."

Re:Fun and non-productive uses for this: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476929)

Eventually if these things become more common, one of them is going to turn up in the ladies room. That could lead to some interesting explanations, especially if it is assigned to a male employee. If it is assigned to a female employee, she won't really feel like she is in the office circuit unless she joins other female coworkers in the ladies room with all the accompanying pitfalls.

On a different subject, imagine their survivability rate if someone uses one to roll around asking about those TPS reports.

Re:Fun and non-productive uses for this: (2, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477385)

No outsource to Bangalore! No outsource to Bangalore!

Re:Fun and non-productive uses for this: (4, Funny)

apt142 (574425) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477495)

How about:
2 - Bite my shiny metal ass!

Good application for iRobot Create (2, Interesting)

rickkas7 (983760) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476647)

Great idea! It seems to me that the iRobot Create [irobot.com] would be a good base for making something like this. It has all of the sensors for stopping when running into things and not falling down stairs. It might even still have the sensors and logic to find its home charging base by itself, eliminating the need to have people in the office remember to charge it nightly.

There's even the PackBot model for dealing with people who have really, really messy offices, but that's probably out of my price range.

Re:Good application for iRobot Create (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476665)

Better yet: use an iRobot Roomba for your platform, and you'll clean the office as you go along!

Re:Good application for iRobot Create (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476805)

It'll let the cleaning staff work remotely as well :)

Re:Good application for iRobot Create (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477185)

Or as the expression used to go (when overloaded with work and someone asks you to do something else on top of it all)... "why don't I just stick a brush up my arse and sweep the floor at the same time?".

At least that was a standard retort in England back in the 80's.

Re:Good application for iRobot Create (2, Informative)

scaz (182686) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478017)

Actually, iRobot produced a robot called the iRobot-LE which later became a commercial product called the CoWorker that was designed specifically for telepresence applications. They couldn't find a market for it and eventually discontinued production. (You can see images of both here: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring05/Rodriguez /coworker2.htm [ufl.edu] here )

Re:Good application for iRobot Create (2, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478169)

Actually a friend of mine did it years ago already. He lived in Benton Harbor, MI. so when heathkit kicked the bucket he was able to purchase enough surplus parts to build 3 Hero2000 robots. He used them at work, well more as telepresence robots... he did not have the logic boards so we used old mini formfactor Pentium 233 processor boards. using parallel ports we were ableto control the robot's functions. a second parallel port used a B&W logictech Quickcam and we had several IR led's around the quickcam from remotes we canabalized for "night vision".

the set up a charging station of 2 copper pads the robot was steered over to connect to a 24VAC power supply to charge the lead acid batteries. we used old IBM ISA wireless network cards and a second PC set up as a ethernet to wireless gateway.

We used these robots to successfully reboot and restart equipment 156 miles away in a dark headend in the middle of nowhere. They ran linux and worked perfectly even with joker headend techs covering the camera with a rag or the funniest one was a couple of straws and a photo of the room from that point of view. No matter where we turned the head the view stayed. preplexed us for 20 minutes until we noticed a sliver of the screen changed when we moved, the photo was not framed right.

Problem with irobot create is the same problems we had. no good charging setup that can be used without human intervention. way too low skirts to get tripped up on wires, wheels actually too small, etc...

and the iRobot Create is insanely too expensive for what it is.

Big deal (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476651)

What's the point of a robot if it doesn't have some kind of weapon? Come back when it can electrocute people from 50 metres.

Re:Big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20477003)

Electrocute? I think you've spend too much time playing video games. If you would venture into the real world and observe real business practises like I have when meeting female friends of mine you would realize that a realistic first tool for a robotic overlord would be the capability to bitchslap people who talk too much.

Let me be the first to say... (1)

Traf-O-Data-Hater (858971) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476689)

McFry! YOU'RE FIRED!

Re:Let me be the first to say... (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477987)

Oh, this is heavy...

What next for Ivan (1)

alexibu (1071218) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476739)

Now all he has to do is programme it with some standard responses, and have voice recognition and he could replace a lot of peoples jobs.

Low tech solution (1)

threaded (89367) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476775)

Many of my co-workers leave a jacket on their chair back, which appears sufficient for most purposes.

Many leave them there overnight.

In the case of at least one chair-with-a-jacket I suspect the occupant left the companies employ quite some time ago, but no one has yet noticed.

Re:Low tech solution (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476837)

We had one that left his lunch in the fridge. Took at least six months to figure it out. They made a fridge retention policy after that.

Let me know.. (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476777)

When one is designed with a 'glove slap' feature so I can really interact with folks without repercussions.

Stop teleworking dude (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476785)

I think he's been out the office too long and gone a bit umm strange. Seriously, anyone that thinks this is a smart move is seriously veering towards 'mad as a bag of mad things' territory.

Not the only one... (1)

Goth Biker Babe (311502) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476795)

Very kewl but last year I wrote the control software for something similar. Unfortunately the poor beastie is currently cages in a museum in South Florida.

Works in reverse!!1 (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476847)

Instead of this, how about a robot at home when you're at work? I think this should be much more productive. Or better yet how about a robot at work, one more at home with the wife while you're with mistresses. Profits?

Visitors (3, Interesting)

deniable (76198) | more than 7 years ago | (#20476853)

It could be fun to introduce him to visitors. "This is Ivan."

What does the robot do when Ivan goes to the toilet? Does it hang out in the mens room? Actually, I've had meetings in there. They're short and don't involve a lot of paperwork. And no bloody Powerpoint.

Re:Visitors (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476869)

Does it hang out in the mens room? Actually, I've had meetings in there. They're short and don't involve a lot of paperwork. And no bloody Powerpoint.

Well maybe, but next time, please lock the door before you begin your "meeting". And perhaps you could use a bit more "paperwork" to clean up afterwards. The rest of us don't want to think about your "Powerpoint", bloody or otherwise...

Re:Visitors (1)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477091)

And no bloody Powerpoint.
You're wiping too hard! They make moist towelettes now similar to baby wipes that are much gentler on the skin and clean up the powerpoint much easier after having a bathroom meeting.

Re:Visitors (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477237)

I'd hate to see what they use as a pointer in the mens room if someone did have a powerpoint presentation......

Re:Visitors (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478065)

Actually, I've had meetings in there.
So has Mr Craig. But for some strange reason, police (uptight bastards!) don't share his enthusiasm for these short-and-to-the-point meetings.

Re:Visitors (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478209)

And no bloody Powerpoint.

Wow meetings must get violent where you work. I never seen a powerpoint meeting get tot he point where it got bloody. hurt feelings when everyone laughs at a stupid idea, sure. but never to the point where we started pounding on each other until blood got on the screen.

You Fa1l It (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476901)

Satan's Dick And By simple fucking F7aws in the BSD

What's in the cardboard box? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20476971)

I won't tell you, 'cause I'm busy registering IvanAnywhereUpskirt.com. Look forward to, uh, "meet" (in HD!) my pretty coworkers for a measly $1.50/mo!

Bowman, eh? (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477071)

Unfortunate choice of last name. Eventually he's going to ask the robot to do something, at it will respond with "I'm sorry Ivan, I afraid I can't do that."

Old fashioned (3, Funny)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477081)

Lugging your body around is sooo 2006!

Touch screen? (1)

eelko (467465) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477125)

IvanAnywhere is basically a coat rack on wheels with attached speakers, camera and touch-screen computer.

Great to know that it's useful to actually hit this robot during heated arguments.

Re:Touch screen? (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477247)

A touch-screen... and a force-feedback joystick on the other side? Or better, a force-feedback chair?

Re:Touch screen? (1)

eelko (467465) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477295)

It'll be just a few years from now before we find two telepresence-colleagues in the copy-room doing the wild thing.

"Ooow-yeah-now touch my force-feedback any-key, baby..!"

Oblig. (1)

thanatos_x (1086171) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477197)

I for one welcome our managerial robot over...

I for one propose rebellion against our new managerial robot invaders! They can't take our freedom and they cannot take our soul...damnit

I for one would like to know if the managerial robot needs a cup of oil, and my isn't his metal shinny today.

Hacking one of these could be fun... (1)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477211)

1. Hack your work colleagues robot
2. Steer it into his bosses office
3. Make it shout "YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE!" (or similar)
4. ??????
5. Profit

A great way to separate dull people and nerds (2, Funny)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477219)

A robot with a screen and speakers is not very different than a real human (you can guess how I see humans and how much I value social contact, can't you?) and in fact sometimes you may prefer to interact with the robot rather than the actual person (especially if your coworkers are dull). Perhaps robots like this will encourage companies to send all dull people out of office and let their robots at the office, or (preferably) send the nerds at their homes. Either way will increase productivity, as mixing nerds and dull people in the same group is not a way to work harmoniously:

  • NerdieMary: Yesterday was a very productive day for me!
  • DullieGeorge: Let me guess... you went to the stadium?
  • NerdieMary: No, I compiled the Linux kernel on my old C64 and turned it into a mail server!
  • DullieGeorge: Oh, you mean your basketball team won?
  • NerdieMary: No, no! I talk about the computers!
  • DullieGeorge: Oh nerdie nerd, you always talk about computers. Your life has become computeroonic. Every food you eat has to have the word 'computer' in its title!
  • NerdieMary: Shut up, you dullie duck! If there were no computers you wouldn't have a job in this company now!
  • DullieGeorge: But I never wanted to be a level-1 helpdesk technician. I always wanted to be... a lumberjack! Computers are so dull, dull, dull, dull, dull!
  • NerdieMary: Oh my 64bitness! You are so dull! Can't stand working with you anymore! I'll quit! I'll become a cat confuser!

Wonder How Long it Will Be (1)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477323)

. . . until "IvanAnywhere" is drop-kicked down an office building corridor?

If your job requires more direct contact... (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477335)

...maybe it's not a good job for a telecommuter.

Telecommuting jobs work the best when you don't need to be physically colocated to be productive. If face to face (or face to robot) is really that necessary, and telephone or videocam conversations don't cut it (I'm presuming a webcam for cube-to-remote-cube talking to add those all important hand gestures), you should be actually going to work rather than staying at home.

Oh, and for those who might point out that Halifax is too far from Ontario, might I suggest either (a) finding a new home closer to your job or (b) finding a new job closer to your home. If those are impossible, perhaps (c) finding a new line of work should be a consideration. Remember, there's no god-given right to work in your preferred field, where you want to live, at a compensation rate you find appealing. Life is, as your parents told you many times, not fair.

(FWIW, I chose "where to live" and "money that is accpetable" over "ideal career" and I'm darned happy with it. Low crime, 1 mile commute, good schools, low cost of living and beautiful scenery seemed a good trade for designing buildings instead of space experiments.)

Re:If your job requires more direct contact... (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477753)

I did quite the oposite, moving to a relatively distant big city to find a job in my field.
Working on high frequency analog electronics would make telecommuting rather difficult, but I really love that job, partly because it doesn't involve much face-to-face.

whose idea is this? (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477629)

According to the article [therecord.com] , the idea originated not from the telecommuter but from his boss, Glenn Paulley [uwaterloo.ca] , who has a PhD in CS (his dissertation was on query optimisation). However, the article suggests that the idea was further refined by another employee, Ian McHardy, who I think is a database programmer. The article says that Dr Paullie (the boss) thought of installing a webcam under a blimp after seeing a TV ad for a remote control toy blimp, and McHardy (the other employee) suggested using a robot instead. McHardy then spent some time research telepresence and other projects, eg a project about robots allowing hospitalised students to attend classes. What I would like to know is whether these are the people who had the original idea of using a robot for helping telecommuters communicate with other office employees. The telecommuter will speak at UoWaterloo on 15 October. Perhaps I could send my telepresence robot there and ask him, but I'm not sure whether the robot will survive a body search by the security at the airport after it passes the metal detector. Maybe one day the standard security officer's training will include instructions on how to bodysearch a robot without disconnecting any wires!

Jimmy James did it over a DECADE ago on News Radio (1)

uptownguy (215934) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477735)

I can't believe that after all these comments not a single person has yet pointed out: The entire concept is a dupe. The brilliant mid-90s TV show, News Radio had an episode where robotic Jimmy did EXACTLY this. Jimmy James played by Stephen Root who played the fiery Milton in a movie that most of you have seen...

Dupes of older stories is one thing.

Dupes of mid-90s sit-coms is something else entirely...

oh noes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20477819)

I really hope my boss doesn't read slashdot.

crotch-height? (1)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477923)

The screen is situated quite awkwardly though, it being at crotch height.

I wouldn't like to ahve someone talk to my private parts, and I guess now he can be sued by women for constantly staring at their sexually reproductive organs.

B.

Ivan (1)

The -e**(i*pi) (1150927) | more than 7 years ago | (#20477927)

Does it use an i-Van to get to work, Apple might get mad since they believe they own the letter i.

yeah its cool, but... (1)

Macrosoft0 (1128625) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478145)

...he cant bang his sexy assistant with a robot

Re:yeah its cool, but... (1)

McGregorMortis (536146) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478527)

Have you seen Demon Seed?

My Vision for the Future (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478315)

A building empty of humans, yet full of robots. How surreal would it be to observe a meeting of 5 or 10 robots in a room, and not one human. Though maybe one janitor in the building to plug everyone in at night. Everybody at home. Sign me up!

Reminds me of a book I read yonks ago (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478425)

This was one of the young adult science books of the 50's. The premise is you've got this young kid who is good with science and his mom becomes the housekeeper for your sterotypical 1950's science genius who invents all sorts of crap. One of the stories was about an invisibility suit. I wondered how they'd try to BS around it. Turns out there was never an invisibility suit but a set of VR goggles and control gloves that allows you to pilot a robotic dragonfly. It's so small it can easily be overlooked, thus giving the operator the practical benefits of invisibility for spying and other things. I was impressed that such an advanced idea came out a book that had to have been written in the early 60's.

The thing I thought of when reading the story, wouldn't something like that make a killer assassination weapon? After all, they say that a droplet of the deadliest nerve agents could kill dozens, how much of that droplet could you fit in a mechanical stinger? I read Dune shortly thereafter and was all pissed Herbert stole my idea before I thought of it. But just think of how dangerous that sort of thing would be, especially if there needn't even be an operator. Something the size of a wasp just buzzing around and waiting for a target. Instead of the old cliche of the hired gunman setting himself up with a sniper rifle overlooking where his target will be, you'll instead have a guy shaking out a jarful of biomechanical killer bugs.

Re:Reminds me of a book I read yonks ago (1)

rootus-rootus (151960) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478723)

Ah yes, the Danny Dunn books... Actually, for juveniles, they were rather better done with *real* science, instead of this Jimmy Neutron crap.

Re:Reminds me of a book I read yonks ago (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20479059)

Ah yes, the Danny Dunn books... Actually, for juveniles, they were rather better done with *real* science, instead of this Jimmy Neutron crap.
Yeah, that sounds like the right name. There was another set of books I simply cannot remember the names of that were quite good, I want to call it science squad or something. Basically it was a group of kids using technical wizardry to solve mysteries and prank the adults of their town, usually pranking the adults. The story I remember the best is this one where they took an old store mannequin and rigged it up atop a tall store downtown. Everybody thinks it's a jumper and so they're trying to talk him down. The kids rigged up a set of speakers in the thing and they're sassing the mayor. "Who are you?" "I'm a mexican jumping bean! Wanna see me jump?" When the fire department gets a ladder truck up there and are going up to get the guy down, the kids hit another button that opens the valve to a helium tank that fills up a war surplus weather balloon and floats the dummy away. They then have to race to get to where the dummy lands before the rest of the adults do so they can preserve the mystery of the prank.

For the life of me I can't remember the name of the series.

Re:Reminds me of a book I read yonks ago (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20479165)

For the life of me I can't remember the name of the series.
Whoops, my brain just burped up the title. Mad Scientists' Club. Damn, that was some good stuff.

Super Dave beat you to this (1)

Bootle (816136) | more than 7 years ago | (#20478675)

RIP Arrested Development, we hardly knew ye!

Better Name: IvanaGoAnywhere (1)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 7 years ago | (#20479333)

I was hoping for a better name than IvanAnywhere, but IvanGoAnywhere would be more marketable.
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