Will tele-presence robots conduct the quintessential office meeting of the future? If so, will they be able to pay closer attention to the boring details of business conferences than their human counterparts?
On-site avatar machines as tools of communication may well be part of the wave of the corporate future. It is, after all, difficult to ignore a presence when it is perched on a colleague’s shoulder and incessantly waving for your attention.
The Me Bot is the brainchild of MIT doctoral student, Sigurdur Orn. Created with the ability to express itself through gestures, this robot communicates immediately and more effectively than a simple email or even a phone call. “Socially embodied communication” is the term Orn uses to describe the capabilities of this mobile tele-presence.
The photo below is from Orn’s personal collection.
In keeping with Japan’s obsessive love of all things mechanical and robots in particular, the Me Bot made an appearance at the recent Human-Robot Interaction conference in Osaka. The user’s face and two moving arms are displayed via a small screen that sits on top of a three-axis neck.
The arms are what enables Me Bot to express itself and although they seem to be manually controlled, it is the moving screen that translates the user’s head movements into nodding or shaking while the bot moves around on its wheeled base.
“Results show that people feel more psychologically involved and more engaged in the interaction with their remote partners when they are embodied in a socially expressive way. People also reported much higher levels of cooperation both on their own part and their partners as well as a higher score for enjoyment in the interaction,” claims the MIT Personal Robots Group (PRG).
While it does seem unlikely that Me Bots will ever take three-hour executive lunches and dictate unreasonable policies and deadlines as capably as their human counterparts, they may well have found their place in the world of business meetings where everyone is two steps ahead of the item currently being either presented or ignored on the agenda.
What do YOU think about this?