Robots in the Hallway

One year ago I wrote an article for Big Think with the title walking across campus whilst sitting on your couch in which I introduced my readers to the AnyBot, a rather exciting concept but at $10.000 / piece unfortunately also costly and probably not affordable for the average school or family. My alternative was a low cost and self-made robot designed for video chat that comes at the cost of $500 only.


Already back then I pointed to the obvious advantages of such robots for remote or impaired students to attend classes and the possibility of engaging in a discussion with the teacher. Another interesting use case would also be peer interaction as the devices allow students from around the world to connect with each other in a formal classroom setting but, of course also in a more informal environment to empower social interaction and thus cultural understanding and learning.

Yesterday, Mashable and other tech blogs picked up a story about a new attempt to revolutionize how students might attend school in the future. This new robot’s name is VGo and according to the article it’s already been used in schools in the U.S. when students are not able to go to school due to an illness or handicap. Just like the AnyBot VGo comes on wheels why is handy as the students can point their robot in the right direction to interact with the teacher or other students.

VGo is running on Verizon’s 4G LTE network which is handy on the one hand as connectivity is available throughout the entire campus instead of individual buildings only. On the other hand, this disqualifies currently many schools in the U.S. alone where LTE is simply not available yet, not to even start thinking of rolling this concept out on an international level. I must also say that the price to buy a VGo is quite high for the moment starting at $6,000 with additional cost for a service contract, docking station and not to forget the Verizon 4G LTE connection.

That said, this technology is going become more mainstream over the next two or three years I’d say which will eventually make the robots become more affordable and will open the opportunity to have them in large contingents in schools and companies around the world.

Interesting to me is to think about potential implications of having your robot go to school or attend a meeting for you.

What has started as a fascinating possibility for people faced with various disadvantages might quickly turn into a commodity. Is it likely that we’re going to spend even more time at home, potentially sitting on the couch as our robot will be going to work for us? As people largely working from home learnt already is that fact that they’re missing the social interaction. Some of them choose to work in cafés, some companies invented a day everybody comes to the office to spend the working day together, although the work itself wouldn’t require everybody to be in the same space. It seems that people need a so called “third place” where they can exchange ideas with others in the real world.

And, as we all know by now, sitting wrecks our body, makes us fat and then kills us.

I’m saying this bouncing on my exercise ball that I bought due to increased backache and to avoid sitting on a normal chair to write my articles.

I wonder what is going to happen to our bodies when our robots will go to school or work for us. Or, and being an optimist, mankind is going to be creative and will invent something to replace the good old sofa.

I leave you with this tidbit: The word robot was created by Karel Capek. It came from the Czech/Slovak word “robotovat” which translates to work very hard (courtesy of @LanguageLab).

Picture: via InformationWeek

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