Doing robotic telepresence can be tricky. It's one of those
things that sounds good on paper, but when it comes to getting
people to plunk down a pile of cash for the hardware, going
commercial with the concept has proven to be more or less
impossible outside of some very specific circumstances. Double
Robotics — a startup out of Y Combinator — is taking a shot at
the telepresence space with a slick new iPad-based platform called
When we say it’s "iPad-based," it's literal. Double is pretty much
a mobile base for an iPad. You can log into the iPad from any
computer or iOS device, and drive the robot around while
streaming two-way audio and video. Double lets you talk to people,
go sightseeing, or do whatever else you want while remotely
inhabiting the body of a robot. The iPad can be extended vertically
from three and a half to five feet to maintain eye level with people
sitting or standing, and the Segway-style base uses high efficiency
motors to zip around for up to eight hours on a charge. It has a
futuristic, minimalist design, and it has a low preorder price of
$2,000 (iPad sold separately).
Double arrives fully functional as soon as you
open the box — just insert your iPad. Touch the
power switch to activate Double's self-balancing
sensors (keeping itself upright). At only 15 pounds
( 7 kg), it's easy to move by hand and won't damage
Setting up Double on your iPad is as easy as
downloading an app. The same app is used for the
driver's iPad and the robot's iPad. Once you create
an account, your driver's iPad will display all of your
Doubles anywhere in the world from one screen.
Connect to Double by tapping its icon, which
will initiate an interactive video call. During the call,
touch the screen anywhere to engage the driving
controls. Slide your thumb to drive and turn.
Additional controls adjust your height remotely,
park yourself with the kickstands, and more.
You can drive Double from an iPad, iPhone,
iPod touch, or desktop web browser.
30 SERVO 10.2012