Tag Archives | Anybots

Anybots' QB Remote-Presence Robot Starts Shipping

Last August, I wrote about Anybots’ QB, a $15,000 remote-presence robot that lets distant workers attend meetings, hang out with coworkers, and generally behave as if they were in the office. (It’s essentially a fancy remote-controllable Webcam on wheels.) At the time, QB was in beta testing and was supposed to be available for purchase by the fall. Anybots’ schedule slipped: the bot is only now starting to ship. But it’s gained some features which I could have used when I gave a QB a whirl, including seamless Wi-Fi roaming, two-way video streaming using the display in its “forehead,” and high-resolution zooming.

QB’s major competitor seems to be vGo, a somewhat simpler $5,000 robot which did start shipping last fall. (I met a vGo last month when it cohosted the Last Gadget Standing event at CES with Robin Raskin, Jon Heim, Gary Dell’Abate,  and myself.)

In either form, I’m a believer in the basic concept–and I think the day will come when QB, vGo, and/or their competitors and descendents will inhabit plenty of workplaces and nobody will even blink. I sure wish they had existed back when I worked in PC World’s Boston office and wasted countless hours trying to track down my San Francisco coworkers via telephone, and “attending” meetings by speakerphone which didn’t make much sense because I could (kind off) hear what was going on but couldn’t see. I could have been a lot more proactive and productive if I’d been able to tool around the office in robotic form…

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I, Robot: Life With a Remote Presence Bot

“Would you like to borrow a robot for a week?”

Would I like to borrow a robot for a week? There’s only one sane answer to that question: Of course I would. When can I get it?

The robot I was being offered was a beta unit of QB, the product of a Silicon Valley startup named Anybots. It’s a bot built with one purpose in mind: Letting remote workers such as telecommuters or folks in branch offices interact with colleagues at headquarters.

QB is essentially a remote-control Webcam on wheels–using a browser-based app, the absent employee can steer the robot around the office, see other employees, and talk to them. More puppet than independent thinker, it’s  not even as autonomous as a mere Roomba. Nor does it have any way of picking up or otherwise manipulating objects, although a built-in laser pointer lets it direct coworkers’ attention in a particular direction.

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Meet QB, Your New Robotic Coworker

It looks sort of like a Segway that’s developed anthropomorphic characteristics. It’s really a high-quality videoconferencing system on wheels. It’s called QB, and if startup Anybots is successful, it could be coming soon to the conference rooms, offices, and hallways of businesses everywhere.

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