RoboMetrix, a father-and-son robotics team from Lebanon County, has developed VisitorBots, a mobile robot that allows users to video chat while the robot follows them.
“It’s being in two places at once, that’s how we started it,” said Palmyra’s George Keller, who founded RoboMetrix with his son Tyler Keller. The pair have been developing VisitorBots for the last three years. “There are other options like this out there on the market, ones that are needlessly complicated and needlessly expensive. Ours works surprisingly well at less cost.”
The robots work with any video chat platform on any smartphone or tablet. The user can control the robots to move around a home, classroom or boardroom so that it gives the effect of the person on the other end actually being in the room.
VisitorBots are not an application, just the transport system. The user provides the smartphone or tablet and the video conferencing application.
The Kellers are trying to raise money for their idea through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. So far, they’ve had a slow go, George Keller said. As of today, VisitorBots has raised just $1,465 of the project’s $30,000 goal, with eight days left in the campaign.
Donating to the project is essentially an order for a VisitorBot, depending on how much you donate. Money changes hands only if the project’s fundraising goal is reached by Aug. 14.
If the goal is reached, the Kellers then have about six months, per Kickstarter regulations, to deliver the robots.
The smaller VisitorBots can be ordered on the Kickstarter site for $250. The largest robot costs between $800 and $1,000.
Keller said the practical applications include being able to keep an eye on an ill friend or family member, helping out-of-school students be in the classroom virtually or lending a hand to telecommuters who want to be in the office.
“And the development process doesn’t end,” he said. “We’re always adding features, always trying to make it less expensive.”
Check out the video of how VisitorBots work: