Tele-Telepresence

I hope you all had a good christmas holiday. It’s friday already and I am only just blogging about the penultimate Cool Stuff Collective that started airing on christmas eve! We ventured into yet more unusual tech using a telepresence robot as both the prop and the subject of the piece.
So for this one I got to talk to vicky via Skype, but I was delivering out via a controllable camera and screen using a Mantarobot.

This piece of kit contains a netbook, but it is encased in a motorised column that allows control signals to be directed to it via Skype plugin, so you can drive around (with parking sensors sending info back to the driver). You appear on the screen and you can also pan and tilt the camera on the device which gives much more freedom than a regular webcam.

Being used to expressing what I need to say through a digital medium it was an interesting feeling to know there was an actual physical presence, a real avatar at the other end. The school floor was a bit slippery for the device so when I was driving around in rehearsals I kept facing not quite the way I wanted too. I am sure with practice that could be rectified.
I am still not a fan of the video conference though. It was made harder by the fact that I was also being filmed from over my shoulder.

It creates a weird sensation even when you know the person you are talking too. It was interesting to contrast this with the experience of talking to Vicky as a Panda avatar, rather than me as a laptop on wheels. The former was more relaxed and normal. It almost felt as if there was a “oh no what has happened to you?” feel from the telepresence bot. One of the questions from the audience was “could you make it look more real?” I suggested some tinsel.
That said though it has its place, it works and it was using easily available technology. It is not just Mars Rovers that telepresence and ultra remote control can work with.
The show is on the ITV player for a few weeks and the last show goes out tomorrow new years eve. Though for some reason we are just only CITV and have lost the ITV slot. It is a roundup and a bit of a prediction show so I will see what made the edit and talk about that tomorrow 🙂

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