The Ohmni telepresence robot is designed for your home, not your office

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Story and images by The Verge

Most telepresence robots are sold for the slightly disheartening purpose of letting remote workers visit the office from home. But startup OhmniLabs is targeting a more wholesome market. The company says its new telepresence bot, the eponymous Ohmni, is designed to connect families – whether that’s parents on a business trip saying goodnight to their kids, or children logging in to visit their grandparents at their retirement community.

This is mainly marketing, and the basic functionality of the telepresence bot remains unchanged. But the Ohmni does seem like a good deal compared to other available bots. For a retail price of $1,899 you get a mobile robot with a built-in tablet (compare that to the $3,000 Double for which you have to supply your own iPad), and the Ohmni has a number of useful, high-end features, including an auto-docking function. (Just approach the charging dock and tap a button on the app to let the bot guide itself in).

The Ohmni’s tripod-style wheelbase looks solid; it can collapse down into a small, portable package; and the moving “neck” — which lets users tilt their view up and down, or even nod — seems genuinely useful. It may sound like a silly feature, but the lack of body language when using a telepresence robot can be oddly restrictive. Even a small gesture like a nod can really help sell the experience.

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Filed Under: Telepresence

About the Author: Howard S. Lichtman is a productivity-focused technologist, author, and consultant with specialties in telepresence and visual collaboration to improve organizational and personal productivity. He is the founder and president of the Human Productivity Lab, an independent consultancy and research firm that helps organizations design telepresence strategies and deploy telepresence solutions. He is the publisher of Telepresence Options, the #1 website on the Internet covering the telepresence revolution and editor of the Telepresence Options Telegraph, the world's most widely read publication focused on telepresence technologies. Mr. Lichtman is also the author and/or co-author of The Inter-Company Telepresence and Videoconferencing Handbook (2009), The Telepresence and Videoconferencing Exchange Review(2010), Telepresence, Effective Visual Collaboration and the Future of Global Business at the Speed of Light (2006), and Emerging Technologies for Teleconferencing and Telepresence (2005). He is currently working on Telepresence Options 2010 Yearbook. Mr. Lichtman is a frequent commentator on telepresence, videoconferencing and effective visual collaboration and his writings on and analysis of the industry have been featured by US News and World Report, Telephony Magazine, CXO Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Pro AV Magazine, Killer App Magazine, ABA Banking Journal, Bank Systems and Technology Magazine and CFO Magazine among others.

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