V-GO alternative


At a recent meeting, I described a desire to build a robot based on a remote control car, a router, an arduino, and a web cam. This would of course just be a first step towards something more useful. Call it practice, if you will.

The company I work just started testing the VGo product, which is a robotic telepresence product. Each unit retails for around $7K and as far as I'm concerned, the construction is real shoddy. There should be no reason why we couldn't put together something similar using mostly pre-existing open source software and hardware.

Here's the site for VGo: http://www.vgocom.com/

If we could find a way to manufacture units, we could even donate them to area schools and hospitals. Or, we could potentially copy-right / patent any custom bits and pieces we design and then either release them into the public domain as open source hardware and software projects or potentially, use the manufacture and sale of the units (or licensing) as a way to raise funds for the space ... just some thoughts ....


(this is Adam, testing some Drupal forum features in addition to sharing more VGo info / ideas)

As it turns out, the VGo robots are managed via VGo's cloud service. So, essentially, a user on a laptop will fire up an application that connects to the cloud service. That application provides both the ability to "drive" the robot, as well as the video conferencing functionality.

The robots also come with a remote control for providing some minimal local functionality.

I think it should be relatively easy using a package like OpenCV to analyze the video stream in real-time and make the thing follow a person as they move, eliminating the need for a driver. Think of it as like a video camera that follows a presenter / speaker. That way the video stream doesn't have to be a 2-way communication, but rather can be used for making recordings, in addition to allowing for video conferencing.
I'm not a big fan of being limited to interacting with a vendor's servers (cloud), so if I were to design a solution like this, I would offer at least 2 flavors:
1 - standalone, where once it's on the network, someone can connect to it using their browser, and interact that way. Not terribly useful for video conferencing except within a single network / organization, but might be handy on a large campus.
2 - appliance coordinated, where a "customer" can install an "appliance" on their network (perhaps a DMZ) onto which all the robots would register. Then users could either have the robots call once another, or remote uses could "call" into the appliance over the Internet. One could even build in appliance-to-appliance call trunking and directories to better enable inter-organization communication.
3- only if there was demand for it would I consider a cloud option. But essentially, the cloud option would be a centralized version of the appliance's software.

just some more thoughts ....