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Cisco and iRobot (the company that makes the Roomba robot vacuum cleaners) have unveiled a new teleconferencing robot designed for offices. The Ava 500 will be able to move around offices, allowing remote workers to interact with their colleagues via video conferencing technology.
GigaOm's Stacey Higginbotham reported, "Networking giant Cisco has signed a partnership with iRobot, the creators of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner to build a robot platform called the Ava 500. The combined product will have Cisco’s expensive, but beautiful telepresence software and iRobot’s navigation skills. The results of the partnership are expected early next year."
PCMag's Adario Strange explained, "The Ava 500 lets remote workers use an iPad app to select a meeting room and guide the robot to that area at the office. Before being deployed for use, the Ava 500 must first cycle through an exploration mode that allows it to map out the entire office. Once that process is complete, the robot can autonomously travel to any single office on command, while avoiding random people traveling through the hallways. Fitted with a 21.5-inch screen, the robot delivers high-definition images and audio and has a remote-controlled height adjuster to allow for seated or standing conversations with people on site."
Mashable's Lance Ulanoff added, "Dave Evans, chief futurist at Cisco, spoke to me through the robot and explained that from the waist up, Ava 500 is Cisco’s technology; from the waist down, it’s all iRobot. Cisco’s contribution is the EX60 personal video endpoint, which consists of a large 2.15-inch, 1080p screen and camera, as well as Wi-Fi connectivity. That screen, which can slide anywhere from 65 inches to 52 inches (best for keeping the robot's screen at eye-level during sit-down meetings), is bolted to the iRobot's body."
Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Brad Stone noted, "IRobot won’t start shipping the device until 2014, and the pricing information is preliminary. But it won’t be cheap. IRobot will lease the Ava 500 to customers for between $2,000 and $2,500 a month, [iRobot's Colin] Angle estimates, which suggests that it’s not an obvious solution for the average startup or small business. IRobot is announcing it today because it plans soon to start testing the machine with customers. 'I think this will break new ground for a bunch of industries, including videoconference and robotics,' says Andrew W. Davis, an analyst at Wainhouse Research."