iRobot's Ava 500 smart telepresence robot has gone on sale, autonomously mapping out your office, industrial facility, or anywhere else, and then allowing you to remotely log in and wander around it chatting to those physically there. Announced last year, Ava 500 blends Cisco's video conferencing with iRobot's autonomous robotic base; unfortunately, that sort of remote intelligence doesn't come cheap.
The gimmick with the Ava base is that it can use a combination of 3D cameras, laser, and sonar to create a virtual map of its environment. After creating that during the initial installation phase, it can then make its own way around, rather than requiring direct remote control.
That streamlines the controlling process - remote users don't need to be familiar with how to pilot the robot, only click where they want it to go - and, iRobot says, the management process too. Ava 500 can dispatch itself to a meeting room in advance of a telepresence session, making it more likely to start on time.
The downside is the cost. iRobot expects Ava 500 to be leased for around $2,500 per month, or cost $69,500 if purchased outright.
The argument is that, compared to flying executives out to meetings, that actually works out reasonably competitively. Unfortunately it also means that it'll keep Ava 500 the preserve of big business, so no using it for impromptu Mothers' Day visits any time soon.