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Armchair Site Inspections

Conduct a site inspection from the comfort of your own office chair using a telepresence robot

By Fiona Wagner

Need to conduct a site inspection but you’re running short on time? Meet QB, the latest telepresence robot from Silicon Valley’s Anybots, Inc. Resembling Pixar’s WALL-E with a monopod body and Segway-esque wheels, this human-sized, 35 pound rolling bot allows you to tour a potential meeting or conference site remotely, with its microphones and two cameras that transmit live video and audio streams over the internet to your web browser. Controlling the QB is easy: simply log in to your computer, don a headset and tap the arrow keys on your keyboard.

Zipping around at walking speed, QB lets you navigate through an office—or venue—and chat with the folks you see. It’s like having your own personal avatar.

“There’s something about being able to move around and control where you’re looking, there’s that spatial awareness,” says Trevor Blackwell, founder and CEO of Anybots, of his own experience using a QB before a recent TechCrunch event. “So now I feel when I walk into that room, I’m going to remember it.”

But will robots revolutionize site inspections? Marsha Jones, CMP, CMM isn’t so sure. “Is it cool? Yes,” says Jones, president, The Spot Inc., a Brampton, Ont.-based site selection company. “Did I go nuts over it and think, ‘This is what I’ve been waiting for?’ No.”

“If you’re really short on time and you don’t know the venue well, I think in that case it would work,” says Jones. “But there’s nothing like the old fashioned way: the go in, the touchy feely, the smells, meeting the staff—everything you need to experience in a meeting or conference venue that you wouldn’t be able to do with this product.”

There’s also the price tag: at $15,000 a pop, the QB doesn’t come cheap. But as companies look to slash travel costs, the QB, and other telepresence robots like it, will soon be the next best thing to being there.

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