Revolve Robotics Kubi: Telepresence Robot or PTZ mount?

kubi-telepresence-robot-holding-surface-proTablets are everywhere these days. In the early I’m morning often seen sitting on our front porch reading news on my Nexus 7.

I occasionally used both the Nexus 7 and an iPad to make video calls using Polycom RealPresence Mobile. I’ve even joined a Google Hangout from a tablet.

Tablets are not exactly video end-points. Holding them up in front of one’s self is tedious, especially for calls of any duration. Propping them up against things is unreliable and leads to unflattering camera angles.

Revolve Robotics hopes to improve this situation. They are about to ship their KUBI device, which is essentially a robotic PTZ mount for common tablets.

Perhaps “PTZ” is not quite appropriate since it normally means pan, tilt and zoom. Tablets don’t have zoom lenses, but KUBI does support rotation, making it perhaps a PTR mount?

The mechanical design of KUBI appears well-adapted to hold a variety of different tablets, from an iPad Mini or Nexus 7 to an iPad or Surface Pro. Whatever tablet it holds, the position of the device is controlled by a web application. That allows the party at the far end a degree of control over what they see.

The company has some video clips that illustrate KUBI in action. This rather short, dramatic example is a favorite.

 

The company’s blog has some interesting information of use to people to make use of video calling. They cite a Stanford study on the merits of telepresence robots. They also offer some sound advice on audio accessories to enhance video calling, very much like something I’ve done in the past.

While KUBI is not yet delivering, a recent tweet reveals that they’re in the home stretch.

At point of introduction KUBI was projected to cost $199, making it very attractive. Now closer to delivery, the current offer is $479, with shipping projected for late October 2013.

If you’re a developer or experimentalist you may be interested in the KUBI hacker edition, which lacks the finished plastic-wear. Available in just one week for $399, it’s intended to give developers a hardware test bed.

I don’t have much confidence in the costly telepresence robots described in a recent edition of Telepresence Options. That kind of investment only makes sense to a very small group of people.

Even so, I must confess that I’d love to have a play with one of these little KUBI robots. The combination of KUBI and Invoxia’s audio hardware could be very interesting indeed.

It might be just a little bit odd to see more than one KUBI in a small conference room. It would certainly make for an interesting picture.