September 5th, 2007 - Open Knowledge
Sep. 5th, 2007
12:02 pm - Alien fetish
“…pickled, atop my desk.” — Robert Bloch
02:37 pm - Meet IvanAnywhere
Programmer Ivan Bowman spends his days at iAnywhere Solutions Inc. in much the same way his colleagues do.
He writes code, exchanges notes in other developers’ offices, attends meetings and, on occasion, hangs out in the kitchen or lounge over coffee and snacks.
About the only thing he can’t do is drink the coffee or eat the snacks — or touch anything, for that matter.
It’s not that Bowman doesn’t have hands or a mouth; they’re just in Halifax, along with the rest of his body.
In fact, it’s not really Bowman in the Waterloo office at all. It’s IvanAnywhere, a robot Bowman uses to interact with his colleagues in Waterloo from his home office 1,350 kilometres away.
“Robot” is a bit of a stretch, actually. IvanAnywhere is basically a coat rack on wheels with attached speakers, camera and touch-screen computer.
The computer screen displays a live shot of Bowman’s face from his living room in Nova Scotia.
But in the three months since IvanAnywhere first went online, he has become such a normal part of the third floor at iAnywhere that co-workers barely even notice they’re talking to a machine rather than to Bowman’s human form.
“We are all so used to Ivan, they don’t even give it a second thought,” says Glenn Paulley, Bowman’s boss and the originator of the IvanAnywhere idea.
McHardy spent some time over the next few months researching “telepresence,” the academic term for systems that allow people to feel as if they are in a remote location.
He read about other telepresence projects, such as robots designed at the University of Toronto for hospitalized school pupils to virtually attend classes and a French-made touch screen on wheels that serves as a robot tour guide.
McHardy found a mobile base with wheels and 24-volt motors sold by SuperDroid Robots Inc.
On top, he placed a cardboard box containing enough batteries to power the robot for the workday and the wires and gadgetry needed to convert digital instructions to analog controls.
Infrared proximity sensors are meant to prevent the machine from hitting the walls, although he still crashes into a door frame now and then.
A simple aluminum bar almost two metres high sticks up from the base, with the webcam, screen and speakers wrapped on below.
McHardy’s only concession to esthetics is a grey foam ball stuck on the robot’s top.
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