As a result of this little worldwide pandemic we’re experiencing, just about everyone who can work from home currently is working from home. If office meetings are a regular part of your work, then that means you’re probably doing a lot of virtual meetings with video conferencing software like Zoom. Software like that works just fine if you only need to speak to colleagues, but leaves a lot to be desired if you need more interactivity. That’s why you may want to consider building this cheap telepresence robot that you can move around on desks and tabletops.
Telepresence robots are intended to give you an artificial avatar that you can move through spaces that you’re unable to visit yourself. Usually they’re roughly the height of a human, so that your perspective is more natural. They have a camera so that you can see the space you’re moving through, and often a screen so that people in that space can see your face. Until recently, the entire concept seemed rather pointless, because very few people have a need for that capability. But with social distancing and quarantines in place, a telepresence robot could be handy today. Purpose-built telepresence robots tend to be expensive, but The Crafty Robot’s guide will show you how to make your own with a cheap cardboard robot kit and a smartphone.
The platform used for this project is a Smartibot, which costs £55 (about $67 USD). It’s cheap thanks to its cardboard construction, but the electronic hardware is quite capable. To convert it into a telepresence robot, you just need to strap a smartphone onto the Smartibot. That gives you a video feed and shows your own face on the display. The Crafty Robot provides the code to setup remote control of the Smartibot via the PubNub video chat API. A remote user can control the robot through the chat and see what the robot sees. The ideal configuration would be to have your colleague setup this telepresence robot for you to control, while you setup one for them to control. This robot is hardly durable, but if you require a telepresence robot then this should get you through quarantine.