iRobot debuts latest entry in telepresence market

Ava500 iRobot

Today at InfoComm in Orlando, iRobot announced its latest entry into the nascent telepresence market, a collaboration with Cisco Systems targeted at business users.

The robot, called the Ava 500, essentially mounts Cisco telepresence technology on a mobile base from iRobot. The base is an enhanced version of iRobot’s Ava robotics platform, and the display is Cisco’s TelePresence EX60 personal video endpoint, which until now sat on a desktop.

In January, RP-Vita — developed by iRobot and InTouch Health — became the first telepresence robot to receive clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for use in doctor/patient consults. In contrast, the Ava 500 is designed to facilitate off-site business meetings, presentations and facility tours.

The robot is controlled by selecting a destination on an iPad. From there, autonomous navigation brings the platform safely to its destination — with sensors ensuring it doesn’t trample anyone along the way — so users don’t actually have to “drive” the robot.

The cost is reported to be around $2,500 a month to lease, which falls between the $4,000 to $6,000 it costs hospitals to operate RP-Vita and the $2,500 one-time price of a unit like the Double from Double Robotics. iRobot says key differentiators for the product include its autonomous navigation and enterprise-grade security thanks to Cisco’s technology. (Click here for a full list of features.)

The Ava 500 will be available starting in early 2014.

[ photo courtesy of iRobot ]

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