The CoWorker Drone is basically a PC on wheels with Internet capability, so you can web conference with people in a distant office, or keep tabs on your workers. This device is available from IRobot Corporation, a Boston based company founded by scholars at MIT (including Rodney Brooks).
IRobot also offers military grade robots for everything from search and rescue operations to bomb detection and diffusion. They also offer one of the first domestic robots, the Roomba, an automated vaccuum cleaner that perpetually cleans your house. This futuristic device is less than $200. Still, it can't climb stairs.
The company's first prototype for the CoWorker, however, known as the IRobot LE, was an Internet avatar (a digital telepresence-robot or icon-originally this meant the incarnation of a Hindu god), allowing users to see, hear, and move through distant environments via a wireless connection. The LE could also map its environment and move autonomously. It could even climb stairs. This way, operators could monitor their homes from a distance: keeping tabs on children, or for security .
Teleoperation (operation at a distance) over the Internet is a brand new field of robotics. It presents interesting new problems, such as what happens when multiple people attempt to use the same avatar at once? In Beyond Webcams, Venema and Hannaford describe a potential telerobotic system for remote handling of protein crystals on expensive Space Shuttle missions over the Internet .
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