iRobot And Cisco Build A Roving Telepresence Rig So Remote Workers Can Still Roam The Office

It’s no secret that iRobot’s domestic cleaning machines can carry some interesting things while they putter around and wipe up your floors, and iRobot and Cisco have taken that notion to its next logical step. The two companies have just announced that they’ve taken this smart roving robotics platform and stuck this pricey enterprise video conferencing monitor on top, all to facilitate West Wing-style walk-and-talks with colleagues who couldn’t be bothered to schlep into the office.

We’ve seen plenty of curious telepresence rigs before, but this is one of the few that makes it a point to break away from the confines of a desk. Once everything is put together, the Ava 500 stands at about 5’5″ and artfully dodges office debris the same way the more janitorial units do. Meanwhile, those remote users also get to control that roving robot by way of an iPad app, though the process isn’t as hands-on as one might hope — the Ava 500 handles most of the control itself after the user selects a destination so it’s perfect for remotely touring dangerous corners of the factory floor, but not so perfect for doing donuts outside of Conference Room B.

In case the notion of buying one of these to remotely dick around with friends has you reaching for your checkbook, you may want to look into a less ambitious way to go. iRobot looks at the Ava 500 as a strictly enterprise device and it has a price tag to match: according to the Boston Herald, the Ava will cost companies in the neighborhood of $70,000 when it launches next year, or about $2,000-$2,500 if you lease it monthly.