There are a lot of iPad and iPhone cases being showcased in theExpo Hall at Macworld/iWorld. Some of them have pretty cool colors or animal prints—a few are even waterproof. There’s only one, though, that turns your iPad into a roving, video-playing robot. Meet the Double, a $2,000 remote-controlled robot that might make it so you’ll never have to leave home again.
A word with Jay Liew of Double Robotics:
“We make an iPad-based telepresence robot that you can control from anywhere in the world over a wireless Internet connection,” Liew said about the company, “so essentially it allows you to be in two places at once.” My immediate reaction to the Double was “cool, but how would you ever find a use for this?”
Apparently, businesses are finding them. “A lot of companies are buying this for their remote employees so that they don’t have to come in and work but they can still walk over to their coworkers’ desks and say hi and discuss business matters,” said Liew.
Turns out, people are coming up with all sorts of creative applications. “There was a couple yesterday who bought this,” Liew said, “They said they have a teenage son and when they are away at work they wanted to make sure their son is doing homework at home, because he says he’s doing homework but they don’t really know.
“There was a young man who bought this yesterday and wanted to place it at his aging grandfather’s home so he can stay in touch with his grandfather and make sure grandpa’s OK.
“Some people want to keep an eye on pets,” Liew continued, “We’ve got doctors interested in using this for telemedicine, we’ve got teachers interested in using this in their educational setting as well. Museums are interested in giving tours with this—we’ve got a real estate agent who bought this who wanted to give real estate tours with this.”
Spectators often slap the Double around a bit to tests its impressive balancing powers. “Since it’s self-balancing, people are often curious– they see the two wheels and wonder how it self-balances and they wonder how stable it is,” said Liew, “So sometimes they just nudge it to see if it will fall over and of course it doesn’t. It balances itself.”
And the controls are incredibly simple.
“You control it like a remote-control car,” Liew pointed out. “You’ve got six buttons: forwards, backwards, left, right and then two more buttons to adjust the height up and down. The reason why the height is important–it goes from about three feet to about five feet–you want to be at eye level even when you speak to someone sitting down in a chair.”