Although video chat has been a key form of long-distance communication for many years, it can be cumbersome and feel artificial. OhmniLabs uses robots to transform simple video chat into “telepresence,” a more natural and immersive form of communication.
The Santa Clara, California-based company designs rolling robots with mounted display and hardware. A user can call in to the robot, connect without needing someone to accept the call on the other side, and move the robot – and their telepresence – using a controller.
Beyond just having the ability to move, however, the company touts the many engineering advantages within the hardware itself. Dual wide-angle cameras with a tilting display give a broad view, a far-field microphone and speaker allow users to hear and speak across a room, the foldable design gives flexibility in its use, and a 5-6-hour battery life with ability to auto-dock to a charging station ensures that a connection is almost always available.
While the $1,500 price tag may seem steep, the company points out many important use cases for its telepresence robots. Parents and grandparents can periodically check in and interact with their families from hundreds of miles away. Physicians using telemedicine may be able to engage more using a movable robot than with traditional video calls. Students who miss school can sit in on their classrooms, listening and speaking as if they were actually there.