Drive To Discover

Robots changing the face of telecommuting

Sunday, November 08, 2009

There is a man who works in Menlo Park every day, yet he lives in Indiana. He does it by inhabiting the body of a robot.

MOST POPULAR: Video, stories and more
SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you from ABC7 News

In a typical workplace, people don't sit chained to their desks all day. They like to wander the hall and engage in conversation with other employees, except if they telecommute. Well, now, that's changing.

Dallas Goercker lives in Indiana while he works in Mountain View. This isn't telecommuting. It's telepresence.

"Most people in the building didn't know who he was," according to Dallas' boss. "Now, most people in the building think he's a robot."

"That's what they know me as," Dallas acknowledges. "I just drive around with a big smile on my face."

On one of those drives a fellow employee stops him to say, "They're waiting for you in the conference room."

"I can go to meetings," says Goercker. "I can be there physically, see them, they can see me. I can move up to them, versus their always having to come up to me."

During one of those meetings, Willow Garage CEO Steve Cousins gave ABC7 the perspective of the humans present.

"If you had asked me before this project started, 'Should we build a telepresence robot?' I would have said, 'We don't really need that.' But, it turns out it makes a huge difference in how we know Dallas," he said.

Goercker agrees.

"It definitely makes a difference as far as my interactions with people and getting to know people, and people knowing me. They like to dress me up, they like to put stickers on me, all around," he said.

Telepresence robots are being used elsewhere. So far, they are used almost entirely in applications that require making rounds, such as medical care. Telecommuting is something different. Dallas' robot is called Texas, developed by him and colleague Curt Meyers at Willow Garage, a robot developer and incubator where they work.

On top is a webcam with pan, tilt and zoom. The monitor pivots to change the view. A laser scanner helps with navigation and investigation. A third camera below keeps an eye on the road.

What happens when more than one person is telepresent? They bump into each other, like Curt's robot and Dallas' robot.

More Information:
The "Texas" Robot Telepresence Page
Anybot
Headthere Inc.

       Today's latest headlines | ABC7 News on your phone
Follow us on Twitter | Fan us on Facebook | Get our free widget

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

Get more Drive to Discover »


Tags:
drive to discover
blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement