Lots of Texas Robots (we mean, Texai)

Texas Alpha Prototypes

As you can see from the photos above, our build of 25 Texai (Texas Alpha version)  remote presence systems is well underway. The 25 Texases, a.k.a. "Texai", are now in the office, and we're busy bringing them online. The docking stations arrived on Thursday, but we're having trouble finding 25 outlets to plug them into!

Our Texai team spent long nights making this happen quickly, and it's fair to say that the rest of the office was stunned when they came in to work and saw the scene above. We now have 25 TAs, 5 PR2 Betas, 3 PR2 Alphas, and an original Texas. We're not quite at one robot per employee, but, with more PR2 Betas in production, we're getting there.

The big question is, "What are we going to do with 25 Texai?" We're working on that. We've already seen how one Texai could positively affect the relationship of one employee with the rest of the company -- now we'd like to see what effect many can have. The Texai surprised us as an unplanned byproduct of our efforts with the PR2 and ROS, but we know a good remote presence system when we see one.

We've already planned for some formal and informal uses. Some of them will be used for Human-Robot Interaction research. Others will be deployed at various sites and companies to study the mobility, networking, and social challenges that must be addressed in the design of remote presence systems.

We're also going to use them ourselves. Although we only have one employee in Indiana, we have several working remotely from home and from the Willow Garage Ski House. We'll see if the Texai can teach PR2 some tricks on the slopes.


meeting robots

This product is great serendipitous event first of all. I wonder what will happen if these robots start running into each other... This will probabily result in people meeting through those robotic encounters... Just image Joe chatting with a Texai robot representing Brenda, in comes a robot with Jim on its screen. So the three have a conversation. The moment Joe leaves the room, only two robots remain, creating an interesting situation: If the conversation between Brenda and Jim isn't hampered, this would means you basically have stumbled upon a teleconferencing method, that could change the conferencing industry. Imagine renting out TEXAI's on any major conference, thus allowing people to attend them conveniently from behind their desktop. As a next stage I foresee only robots (advanced version) meeting up (in any random convenient place, probably in the parking lot of willow garden) while all attendees stay home. So you guys nailed it! haha. Good luck Harry van der Velde http://zicht.com

meeting robots

That was my first thought the moment I saw those bots. Imagine what the streets of Songdo will look like if more accessible telepresent robots (e.g. ones that can tackle stairs) are developed and implemented into the city's home conferencing network. It's almost scary. Cisco must have considered its integration as I'm sure the video conference systems offered by other companies (Polycom, LifeSize etc) could definitely capitalise on this potential extension to the Telepresence market.

Sell them!

Guys - you should really sell these. I'm about to start splitting my time between a home in Australia and a job in California. A good telepresence robot would rock my world.

Hardware specifications

Are the hardware specifications available? Drawings, Schematics,... so anyone can build one for here/himself? Keep up the good work ;) Uwe

The Texas Robots use custom

The Texas Robots use custom manufactured parts from the PR2 for the drive system, so, unfortunately, this is not something that people can make identical builds of. However, there are many sites on the Internet that provide instructions on how to build telepresence platforms. Also, as you can see from the photos, there are plenty off-the-shelf components that can be used (webcam, x86 server, monitor, car battery, modular framing, etc...).

...but you can build your own...

If you want to, the ROS platform and the off-the-shelf components can give an enterprising programmers a chance to create your own.

Know that it was as of October when the first Texas rolled through the hallways. Now, there are 28 of them around the Garage. You can do this too.

If you want to learn more, ask questions below.

So - where can I get one?

I need a couple in New York for my programmers in Bombay. How can I get one of these?

The Texas Alpha Robot is

The Texas Alpha Robot is currently an experimental platform that is under active development. We are not offering any for sale at this time, but please stay tuned for updates as development progresses.

Public window into Willow Garage?

Great work guys! If I may make a suggestion, how about creating a web interface for it, so that users can log in from your website and take a quick look around? You could set it up so that users can have a go for say, 5 minutes at a time, and limit them to specific areas of the building. :) ~Robotbling

Hi Robotbling/Plastic

Hi Robotbling/Plastic Pals,

That might be a possibility sometime in the future, though, as you can tell from the blog, we're pretty busy right now. We've already used our cellphone web browsers from as far away as Japan to control Texas, so the base technology is there.