The rise of telepresence robots for business and beyond

Today many people use basic teleconference technology through platforms such as Skype and FaceTime, but advancements in robotics are pushing telepresence to the next level.

By incorporating HD and 3D cameras into remote controlled robots, people are able to navigate faraway locations from the comfort of their home computers.  The robots are equipped with screens for face-to-face communication and wheels for mobility.

You can even drive the robot into a charging station and re-power it remotely.

Telepresence robots have demonstrated their usefulness in the office, allowing people to work from home.

“I can actually just telepresence myself and navigate around the office, speaking to all the employees,” says David Merel, the CEO of a small business that uses robots from the telepresence company Double Robotics.

The robots are proving helpful to businesses outside the office in for conferences and trade shows, as well: “Double allows us to actually bring out some of our staff through telepresence to engage with people at the booth, also [handling] overflow.”


Telepresence recently helped Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem attend a Bitcoin conference in Chicago. The robot allowed him to appear at the event despite being under house arrest in New York for money laundering charges.

While impressive, these applications are just the tip of the iceberg for telepresence technology and its implications.

A Chicago woman with paraplegia took part in the Chicago Disabled Pride Parade this past weekend by navigating a robot from Orbis Robotics from her home computer. She previously used the robot to work at an American Legion conference as a spokesperson for Orbis.

Such robots could give home-bound people the opportunity to visit other places and perhaps even hold jobs in fields like sales, where face-to-face interactions could be conducted through screens.

The technology could open up career paths for many people who have never considered working outside their homes as a viable option and give them financial independence.

How can telepresence continue to develop? If the film Surrogates holds any shreds of accuracy, we will turn telepresence robots into humanoids that perform all of our daily tasks and interactions for us and live out our entire lives remotely, with Bruce Willis as our only saviour.

However, this grim view of the future seems unlikely, especially when you look at the distinctly non-human form of the current models.

As we hone telepresence technology, hopefully it continues to allow people to experience the world in new ways rather than limit them to life through a screen.

Featured image: screenshot from Surrogates (2009). Body image and video courtesy of Double Robotics.

Steve “Woz” Wozniak to advise hologram emoji company that he calls “groundbreaking”

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”

Nanoengineers send antibiotic-delivering micromotors into the body to treat cancer-causing infection

Nanoengineers have demonstrated for the first time how “micromotors” that measure half the width of a human hair can be used to transport antibiotics through the body.

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego tested the micromotors in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections, which can also be found in about two-thirds of the world’s population and while many people will never notice any signs of its presence it can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

The mice received the micromotors – packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin – orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Afterwards, nanoengineers evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach and found that treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than when the same dose of antibiotic was given in combination with proton pump inhibitors, which also suppress gastric acid production.

Micromotors administered to the mice swam rapidly throughout the stomach while neutralising gastric acid, which can be destructive to orally administered drugs such as antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals.

Because gastric acid is so destructive to traditional antibiotics drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors.

But when taken over longer periods or in high doses, proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects including headaches, diarrhea and fatigue. In more serious cases, they can cause anxiety or depression.

The micromotors, however, have a built-in mechanism that neutralises gastric acid and effectively deliver their drug payloads in the stomach without requiring the use of proton pump inhibitors.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego and a co-first author of the paper.

The nanoengineers say that while the present results are promising, this work is still at an early stage.

To test their work, the team is planning future studies to into the therapeutic performance of the micromotors in animals and humans, and will compare it with other standard therapies used to combat stomach diseases.

UC San Diego nanoengineers also plan to test different drug combinations with the micromotors to treat multiple diseases in the stomach or in different sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, the researchers say that this work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as active delivery platforms in the treatment of diseases.

Image and video courtesy of the Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics at UC San Diego.