When my colleague James Vincent tried out Double Robotics’ first telepresence robot in 2015, slowly wheeling around our New York office from his London home base, he described the experience as like playing Doom, but in an office. The company’s latest version of the robot, the Double 3, adds mixed reality video to let users click on the spots they want to drive to instead of having to use a control pad, making the experience closer to controlling a Sim.
The Double 3 now has an array of 3D sensors to allow for self-driving, letting the robot move around while avoiding obstacles. The new “Click-to-drive” interface shows dots on the floor for areas the robot is able to move to, and there are two 13-megapixel cameras that let users pan and zoom around the screen. The cameras can physically tilt up and down, which comes in handy for zooming in to read papers on a desk, for example. The whole interface can be controlled from a web browser or mobile app.
Whereas previous iterations of the Double were basically iPads on wheels — you literally had to stick an iPad on top of the robot to make it work — the Double 3 now has a built-in screen to eliminate the need for a separate tablet and fickle Bluetooth connections.
Telepresence robots are still a niche product category, but Double Robotics says it’s sold over 11,000 robots so far. The idea is that it might come in handy for some remote workers, or situations when you want to have a more physical presence than just Skyping in, but hopefully not if you’re a doctor delivering devastating news to a dying patient.
The Double 3 will launch in September with pricing starting at $3,999. For people who already own the Double 2, the standalone $1,999 Double 3 head is backwards compatible with the Double 2 base, allowing you to add the new control features to the old model.