Don’t mess with a good thing. That’s the thesis behind the newest telepresence robot from Double Robotics, the Double 2. Announced today at CES, the new model keeps the form factor of the original, which debuted three years ago and has shipped over 5,000 units since. But it updates that body with more stability, speed, and camera options, while maintaining the original price of $2,499.
The worst part of using a telepresence robot is falling down. You lie on the ground, iPad askew, calling for help until someone comes to your aid. To help avoid that situation, the Double 2 has added lateral stability control, a shock absorber that lets it ride over obstacles like wires and carpet without losing its balance.
Along with greater stability, the Double 2 has greater speed. It can now travel a whopping 1.6 miles per hour, compared with the original's top speed of 0.9 miles an hour. "It’s kind of like a video game, where you can hold down the Shift key and your character starts running," says Double Robotics CEO and co-founder David Cann. It does feel fast when you're the one driving, although in reality, the new top speed might be just enough to keep up with someone who keeps a brisk indoor walking pace.
Finally, the Double 2 has a wide angle lens that increases the field of view to 150 degrees, about 70 percent more than you could get in the original. This allows it to offer the user a view of the person they are talking with and the floor in front of them. On the first edition users were forced to toggle back and forth between the front and back camera on the iPad in order to see what obstacle was holding them up.
Double Robotics raised $1.9 million in seed funding after graduating Y Combinator and hasn't needed new funding since. Cann says the company, now at 35 employees, has been profitable and steadily growing for the last year and a half. It recently moved to new headquarters in Burlingame, California, closer to San Francisco. And amazingly, it still assembles every unit by hand in a workspace connected to its office.
The company now sells the Double internationally and is planning to expand its footprint over 2016. Most of the units are purchased by large companies, but Cann says the most gratifying customers are the ones they didn’t expect. Several students with an illness or disability that prevented them from traveling to school each day have begun attending class on the Double instead.