Double Robotics Puts Robots in Your Office

Robots are probably the most pervasive futuristic technology portrayed in science fiction. The general public probably thinks of robot applications today in the form of machines that build cars, receptionists at offices in Japan, automatic vacuum cleaners, Indian call center agents, and even drones. However, the potential applications for intelligent machines that can do things more efficiently than humans seem infinite. One application for robotics technology is called “mobile robotic telepresence” (MRT), a sector which is expected to reach $372 million in 2019, up from $42 million in 2014, for a CAGR of 54.4% according to a new study published by ABI Research. Mobile robotic telepresence systems are said to find the greatest success in “high touch” industries such as healthcare, business management, retail, and facilities management. We recently came across a company that builds MRT robots called Double Robotics.

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Backed by the prestigious Y Combinator startup accelerator in 2012, Double Robotics has taken in just $250,000 in seed funding which was enough to enable them to begin shipping their iPad-based telepresence robot in May 2013. In 2012, Double Robotics already had $1.2 million (600 units) in pre-orders just one month after their launch, from 44 countries around the world, including 24 universities, as well as 17 Fortune 500 companies. Essentially, it’s a segway-esque device that can balance an iPad and can be controlled remotely to roll around the shop floor.

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You can operate and control the device using an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, or desktop Chrome web browser. The “Double” recharges to full capacity in about 2 hours and provides up to 8 hours of normal use. The entire unit weighs just 15 pounds, and requires an iPad which acts as the screen and video camera.

While this frankly seems a bit freaky, it sounds like a ripe setup to wind someone up. Will shaking the device from behind while yelling “earthquake” achieve the desired effect? If everybody suddenly starts mouthing their words in a meeting, will the person on the other end think they’ve lost sound? Will a “Kick Me I’m The Boss” sign taped to the back get you sent to the HR office?

This sounds like loads of fun waiting to happen, but it also appears to be generating real economic value. The Double has seen widespread adoption from companies such as Amazon, Target, IBM, and P&G. Even McDonald’s is loving it. One can imagine that every office will have such a device along with an Outlook calendar where you can schedule time to use the robot if you want to visit a remote office, or just “work from home” for a day. If you feel like this is something your company can’t live without, make sure to update your company handbook to include “robot etiquette” then purchase a Double today for $2,499 (iPad not included).

In a future article, we’ll take a look at a publicly-traded company involved in robotics that also sells MRT robots. The only way for retail investors to invest in Double Robotics though, would be through an IPO.

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