What can you do for those times when you need to be in the office, but you just can't make it? How about having a robot go in your place? That's the idea with Double, a telepresence robot that works with the iPad.
Double is an iPad stand on wheels. The "head" provides a snug fit for a regular-sized iPad, which you must provide. The iPad connects to Double via Bluetooth, and the iPad's camera and microphone provide video and audio to the controller.
Double requires a connection to the Internet. The Double Robotics server is the hub for commands and video flowing to and from the controller. The video is encrypted using the WebRTC 128-bit AES encrypted video standard.
In less than 10 minutes, I was up and running with Double--the setup was so easy, I felt like I missed something. To control the robot, You need another iPad or an iPhone and the free iOS app for iPhone or iPad, or you can use the Web-based controls via Google Chrome. (The WebTRC protocol that Double uses isn't supported by Safari.) You tap the up and down arrows to go forward and backwards, and the right and left arrow buttons to turn in the respective directions. When using Google Chrome, you can use the arrow keys on your computer's keyboard.
Because the controls are so simple, driving Double was probably more fun than I was supposed to have. It's super easy to move Double down a hallway or to make easy turns, but it does take some practice to perform more pinpoint movements, like, say, moving between two objects.
Double Robotics cleverly placed a mirror on the head that is used by iPad's rear camera to look down. If you get yourself into a jam, you can use the Look feature in the driver software to view the Double's wheelbase. The Look view is a big help for when you need to navigate out of a rut or get around an obstacle that's not in the view of the iPad's front-facing camera.
If you need to raise the eye level of Double, you can easily do so with the push of a button. Its shortest height is 47 inches, and its tallest height is 60 inches. The height affects the Double's rolling speed, however; the taller it is, the slower Double goes.
Most of the time, controlling Double in the office was smooth sailing, whether I was in the same building, at home, or even while I was standing in the middle of an empty soccer pitch. But I did experience a couple of instances where the software on Double seemed to lock up and I no longer could move. After logging out of the software for about five minutes, I was able to regain control. A Double Robotics representative told me that this problem could happen when the available network bandwidth becomes too low, and network administrations can avoid this issue by dedicating bandwidth to Double connections.
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