I’m a huge advocate of working from home, but even I will admit that it can be tough to try to integrate telecommuters into real-life meetings, especially for the people tuning in from home. Often, you’ve got either a very wide view of a conference room that makes it tough to see any particular participant in detail, or you’ve got some complex multi-camera system that’s time-consuming to set up, or you’re doing a Google hangout and getting abrupt jumps from one webcam to another based on who made the loudest noise recently.
Singapore’s Imagination to Reality (I2R) has developed a solution for that in something it is calling an “attention-directed desktop telepresence robot”. Basically, it’s a robotic camera that uses dirctional microphones and face tracking software to select and focus on persons of interest (i.e., whoever’s talking) in any given situation. You can check the device’s design out below; it’s free-standing and also includes a screen so that everyone can see the person who’s teleconferencing in, too.
Of course the thing isn’t just useful for work. It has a variety of potential applications, from distance education to surveillance to serving as a kind of robotic aide that could allow receptionists to work from home. I haven’t seen the thing in action myself, but my colleague Roy came across it at a recent SCCCI event and came away impressed.