Teleconferencing has changed the way business is conducted. Small companies can hire talent in another city, large corporations can save money by having international meetings in a conference room, and managers can keep tabs on off-site workers through services like Lua. But as technology never rests, neither does the teleconference industry, and Y Combinator-backed Double Robotics proves it.
The company has built an incredibly creative iPad stand that works as a robotic body double for you. It’s a bit like the Swivl, but built for the enterprise.
Founder David Cann tells me that the greatest competitor to the Double is Anybots — you remember, the robot that made Arrington tolerable to his employees. The biggest difference, however, is price. While Anybots can go for approximately $10,000, the Double only costs around $2,000. “We’re doing it the lean startup way,” said Cann, “rather than the traditional way of developing robotics which is very expensive and complicated.”
But how did the team circumvent such high costs and complexities, you ask?
According to Cann, they applied the same method of developing software to developing hardware, keeping the whole project under their roof. They bought a lot of their own equipment to test and develop the hardware, allowing them to iterate much more quickly than your usual hardware developer.
What’s perhaps most interesting about the origin of the Double was that it wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye of the Double Robotics founders. They were actually developing a product that required partnerships with Chinese manufacturers, and they found themselves increasingly frustrated by the fact that they couldn’t keep an eye on the project.
After learning more about mobile robots, the guys realized that they could visit the factory every day and look over the progress being made.
“We never came out with that product because we decided to pivot,” said Cann. “Mobile Robots are expensive and complicated, and we thought we could do it better.”
The Y Combinator-backed Double, as it were, can extend to 5′ or back down to 3.6′ to be in line with people standing or sitting in the room. It uses Opentok to essentially let you video chat with those people.
The Double has a dual-wheel for its base, letting you turn sharp corners and travel around a room or work site all from the comfort of your own home.
You can control the robot through any other iOS device, or through a web interface, which lets you travel throughout the room, decide which height to rest at, and of course, chat with those in the room.
As far as the future is concerned, the Double’s story is as-yet unwritten. Cann explains that they had no idea that mobile robots would be in high-demand by so many different types of users. Clients range from startups who’ve hired talent elsewhere, to major corporations, to doctors who have patients at various hospitals.
Right now the company has put the Double up for pre-order on its newly launched website for $1,999. Though, if you’re a cautious buyer, you may want to wait until Double is available for retail later this year, at the price of $2,499.
Check out how it works in the video below: