iRobot teams up with Cisco for Ava 500 telepresence robot

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We fully expected to see iRobot offer up further applications for its Ava development platform after *ahem* rolling out the RP-VITA, a medically-themed team up with In-Touch Health. The company's second partner is a biggie: it'll be working with Cisco on the Ava 500 telepresence bot. The system looks quite similar to the VITA, sporting what appears to be a nearly identical base. As with its predecessor, Ava's controlled by a fairly simple iPad program -- you can either pick a destination on a map or choose from a list of employee names and rooms you'd like to visit. Once inputted, the robot is autonomous in navigation, getting to the destination, while avoiding people and obstacles. When the meeting's over, it'll return to its base for charging.

On the top, however, you'll find Cisco's TelePresence EX60 end-point, bringing the company's widely adopted platform to the mobile base, courtesy of a 21.5-inch HD display. The user's face will show up on the screen as the 'bot navigates through the halls, allowing you to talk about last night's Mad Men, should you (figuratively) run into anyone around the water cooler. You can also switch to private mode, if telepresence small talk isn't your thing. iRobot and Cisco will be showing off Ava at Infocomm later this month. If you can't wait for that, however, you'll find out a bit more in the press release after the break.

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iRobot Launches Ava™ 500 Video Collaboration Robot with Cisco TelePresence

At InfoComm today, iRobot Corp. (NASDAQ: IRBT), a leader in delivering robotic technology-based solutions, announced the company has signed a joint marketing agreement and is working in close alliance with Cisco to bring the enterprise-grade iRobot Ava 500 video collaboration robot to market. The robot blends together iRobot's autonomous navigation with Cisco's TelePresence to enable people working off-site to participate in meetings and presentations where movement and location spontaneity are important. The new robot is also designed to enable mobile visual access to manufacturing facilities, laboratories, customer experience centers and other remote facilitates in a supply chain.

With Ava 500, a remote worker sitting in front of a standards-based video collaboration system can meet with colleagues in an office setting or take part in experiences, like a facility tour, that would otherwise be difficult or impossible from afar. It enables a remote user in New York to travel the halls, meeting with colleagues in Paris, Hong Kong and San Francisco "on the fly" just as he or she would if physically in that location.

To create Ava 500, iRobot enhanced its Ava mobile robotics platform with Cisco's TelePresence EX60 personal video endpoint. Used by thousands of workers globally, this endpoint has traditionally been a desktop solution. By mounting the EX60's 21.5-inch HD resolution screen atop the mobile robotics platform, the solution builds on the values of telepresence by extending the "power of in-person" beyond fixed environments – enabling freedom of movement, location spontaneity and the embodiment of the remote user thousands of miles away.

"iRobot is excited to work with Cisco to bring this next generation of telepresence to businesses worldwide," said Youssef Saleh, vice president and general manager of iRobot's Remote Presence business unit. "iRobot has been successful in introducing autonomous remote presence platforms to hospitals. Ava 500 will unlock new markets and applications for telepresence in the workplace."

"From the browser to the boardroom, Cisco is committed to improving communications, relationships, and productivity by helping people meet face-to-face over distances," said Snorre Kjesbu, vice president and general manager, Cisco Collaboration Technology Group. "The iRobot Ava 500 is a perfect example of using Cisco's portfolio of high-definition video collaboration solutions to innovate and expand the reach of telepresence."

How it works
The remote user schedules and controls Ava 500 using a familiar iPad® interface, selecting his or her destination by tapping a location on a map or by choosing a room or employee name. An available robot is then activated to "take" the user where they want to go. The user can choose whether to make the trip from the charging station to selected location in either "private" mode-where the screen appears blank-or in "public" mode-where the user's face is displayed. If public mode is chosen, the user can see and be seen, and even stop to have an ad-hoc hallway conversation with a colleague. When the session is complete, the Ava 500 automatically returns to its charging station.

Unique features
Key differentiators of Ava 500 include:

Autonomous navigation. Ava 500 employs "autonomous navigation," which means there is no need to "drive" the robot, so it requires little training to operate and the user is free to concentrate on the task at hand. iRobot's mobile robotics platform maps its own environment so it can intelligently and safely self-navigate busy, real-world enterprise environments like offices, manufacturing floors and laboratories without bumping into people or objects.

Interoperability and enterprise-grade security. Ava 500 uses both the Cisco TelePresence EX60 personal unit and Cisco Aironet 1600 Series wireless access points to enable enterprise-grade security and interoperability in any standards-based video collaboration environment.

Primary anticipated uses
Ava 500 is specifically intended for the enterprise market*. Use cases include:

· Remote team collaboration: allows those working off-site to more personally participate within highly collaborative teams

· Executive management: the robot allows those managing satellite teams to be more personally present and able to move throughout an office environment

· Tours and inspections: allows mobile access to areas including manufacturing facilities, labs, customer experience centers and supply chain facilities

· Remote corporate training/presentations: the robot allows for a more personal and interactive approach to remote corporate training and presentations, where the instructor can approach and have 1:1 discussions with individual students.