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People have been slow to adopt telepresence robots, but this could be a sign of their success.

Ten years ago, there was a burst of activity in telepresence when tech giants HP and Cisco joined the industry.

Now, thanks to a slow but steady adoption, it looks like telepresence robots are here to stay.

The ubiquitous Anybot first shipped back in 2010, which — although it may seem hard to believe — was 8 years ago now!

Think of the Google Glasses in 2013 which looked set to become an instant success but then were discontinued in 2015 (although Google X has started trying again in 2017 by focusing on industrial use).

According to a recent article in the Robotics Business Review, the industry has not yet reached its full potential due to factors like high costs and a lack of public acceptance.

The article explains that telepresence robots are starting to gain traction thanks to lowering prices and better marketing by robot manufacturers.

Apparently, it follows an S-shaped curve: there are a few early adopters, followed by a slow adoption by the rest of the industry, and finally the technology becomes the norm as the late adopters also join in.

However, there is one factor which makes me think that they have the potential to stand the test of time: telepresence robots are a network-led communication technology.Such technologies have been very successful in the past.

For example, two of the biggest technologies of the last three decades owe a lot to this effect: Telepresence robots are, in effect, an extension of existing videoconferencing systems.

For example, here are 3 developments that happened very recently: The future certainly looks interesting for telepresence robots!

Technology

Huawei today released a white paper on innovation and intellectual property (IP), and warned against the issue being politicized.

Aside from accumulating patents of its own, Huawei has also paid more than 6 billion U.S. dollars in royalties to legally implement the IP of other companies, with nearly 80% of that paid to American companies, according to the document.

Intellectual property is private property, protected by the law, and disputes should be resolved through legal proceedings, said Song, adding that in the past 30 years, no court has ever concluded that Huawei engaged in malicious IP theft, and Huawei has never been required by the court to pay damages for this.

Rather, he said, Huawei will adopt an open and cooperative attitude and follow the FRAND principle, or “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory,” when engaging with relevant parties in the industry on patents licensing.

Videotelephony

Videotelephony comprises the technologies for the reception and transmission of audio-video signals by users at different locations, for communication between people in real-time.[1]

Telepresence may refer either to a high-quality videotelephony system (where the goal is to create the illusion that remote participants are in the same room) or to meetup technology, which goes beyond video into robotics (such as moving around the room or physically manipulating objects).

At the dawn of its commercial deployment from the 1950s through the 1990s, videotelephony also included 'image phones' which would exchange still images between units every few seconds over conventional POTS-type telephone lines, essentially the same as slow scan TV systems.

The development of advanced video codecs, more powerful CPUs, and high-bandwidth Internet telecommunication services in the late 1990s allowed videophones to provide high quality low-cost colour service between users almost anyplace in the world that the Internet is available.

Although not as widely used in everyday communications as audio-only and text communication, useful applications include sign language transmission for deaf and speech-impaired people, distance education, telemedicine, and overcoming mobility issues.

News media organizations have begun to use desktop technologies like Skype to provide higher-quality audio than the phone network, and video links at much lower cost than sending professional equipment or using a professional studio.

More popular videotelephony technologies use the Internet rather than the traditional landline phone network, even accounting for modern digital packetized phone network protocols, and even though videotelephony software commonly runs on smartphones.

This was first embodied in the device which came to be known as the video telephone, or videophone, and it evolved from intensive research and experimentation in several telecommunication fields, notably electrical telegraphy, telephony, radio, and television.

The news media were to become regular users of mobile links to satellites using specially equipped trucks, and much later via special satellite videophones in a briefcase.

Attempts at using normal telephony networks to transmit slow-scan video, such as the first systems developed by AT&T Corporation, first researched in the 1950s, failed mostly due to the poor picture quality and the lack of efficient video compression techniques.

The greater 1 MHz bandwidth and 6 Mbit/s bit rate of the AT&T Picturephone in the 1970s also did not achieve commercial success, mostly due to its high cost, but also due to a lack of network effect—with only a few hundred Picturephones in the world, users had extremely few contacts they could actually call to, and interoperability with other videophone systems would not exist for decades.

Very expensive videoconferencing systems rapidly evolved throughout the 1980s and 1990s from proprietary equipment, software, and network requirements to standards-based technologies that were available for anyone to purchase at a reasonable cost.

In the 1980s, digital telephony transmission networks became possible, such as with ISDN networks, assuring a minimum bit rate (usually 128 kilobits/s) for compressed video and audio transmission.

In 1984, Concept Communication in the United States replaced the then-100 pound, US$100,000 computers necessary for teleconferencing, with a $12,000 circuit board that doubled the video frame rate from 15 up to 30 frames per second, and which reduced the equipment to the size of a circuit board fitting into standard personal computers.[10]

Videoconferencing systems throughout the 1990s rapidly evolved from very expensive proprietary equipment, software, and network requirements to a standards-based technology readily available to the general public at a reasonable cost.

While videoconferencing technology was initially used primarily within internal corporate communication networks, one of the first community service usages of the technology started in 1992 through a unique partnership with PictureTel and IBM Corporations which at the time were promoting a jointly developed desktop based videoconferencing product known as the PCS/1.

Over the next 15 years, Project DIANE (Diversified Information and Assistance Network) grew to utilize a variety of videoconferencing platforms to create a multi-state cooperative public service and distance education network consisting of several hundred schools, libraries, science museums, zoos and parks, and many other community oriented organizations.

The camera phone was the same size as similar contemporary mobile phones, but sported a large camera lens and a 5 cm (2 inch) colour TFT display capable of displaying 65,000 colors, and was able to process two video frames per second.[13][14]

Videotelephony was popularized in the 2000s, via free Internet services such as Skype and iChat, web plugins supporting H.26x video standards, and on-line telecommunication programs that promoted low cost, albeit lower-quality, videoconferencing to virtually every location with an Internet connection.

In May 2005, the first high definition video conferencing systems, produced by LifeSize Communications, were displayed at the Interop trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, able to provide video at 30 frames per second with a 1280 by 720 display resolution.[15][16]

Technological developments by videoconferencing developers in the 2010s have extended the capabilities of video conferencing systems beyond the boardroom for use with hand-held mobile devices that combine the use of video, audio and on-screen drawing capabilities broadcasting in real-time over secure networks, independent of location.

Mobile collaboration systems now allow people in previously unreachable locations, such as workers on an off-shore oil rig, the ability to view and discuss issues with colleagues thousands of miles away.

The highest ever video call (other than those from aircraft and spacecraft) took place on May 19, 2013 when British adventurer Daniel Hughes used a smartphone with a BGAN satellite modem to make a videocall to the BBC from the summit of Mount Everest, at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level.[18]

During the late 1930s the post offices of several European governments established public videophone services for person-to-person communications utilizing dual cable circuit telephone transmission technology.

Popular corporate video-conferencing systems in the present day have migrated almost exclusively to digital ISDN and IP transmission modes due to the need to convey the very large amounts of data generated by their cameras and microphones.

Mobile collaboration systems are another recent development, combining the use of video, audio, and on-screen drawing capabilities using newest generation hand-held electronic devices broadcasting over secure networks, enabling multi-party conferencing in real-time, independent of location.

Webcams are popular, relatively low cost devices which can provide live video and audio streams via personal computers, and can be used with many software clients for both video calls and videoconferencing.[19]

Computer security experts have shown that poorly configured or inadequately supervised videoconferencing system can permit an easy 'virtual' entry by computer hackers and criminals into company premises and corporate boardrooms, via their own videoconferencing systems.[20]

Acoustic echo cancellation (AEC) is a processing algorithm that uses the knowledge of audio output to monitor audio input and filter from it noises that echo back after some time delay.

Currently, adequate video for some purposes becomes possible at data rates lower than the ITU-T broadband definition, with rates of 768 kbit/s and 384 kbit/s used for some video conferencing applications, and rates as low as 100 kbit/s used for videophones using H.264/MPEG-4 AVC compression protocols.

It applied mostly to dedicated circuit-based switched network (point-to-point) connections of moderate or high bandwidth, such as through the medium-bandwidth ISDN digital phone protocol or a fractionated high bandwidth T1 lines.

While additional software is required to patch together multiple video feeds for conference calls or convert between dissimilar video standards, SIP calls between two identical handsets within the same PBX were relatively straightforward.[38]

Nearly all mobile phones supporting UMTS networks can work as videophones using their internal cameras, and are able to make video calls wirelessly to other UMTS users in the same country or internationally.[citation needed]

Mobile phones can also use broadband wireless Internet, whether through the cell phone network or over a local wifi connection, along with software-based videophone apps to make calls to any video-capable Internet user, whether mobile or fixed.

Videophones are increasingly used in the provision of telemedicine to the elderly, disabled, and to those in remote locations, where the ease and convenience of quickly obtaining diagnostic and consultative medical services are readily apparent.[44]

In one single instance quoted in 2006: 'A nurse-led clinic at Letham has received positive feedback on a trial of a video-link which allowed 60 pensioners to be assessed by medics without travelling to a doctor's office or medical clinic.'[44]

A further improvement in telemedical services has been the development of new technology incorporated into special videophones to permit remote diagnostic services, such as blood sugar level, blood pressure, and vital signs monitoring.

Today the principles, if not the precise mechanisms, of a videophone are employed by many users worldwide in the form of webcam videocalls using personal computers, with inexpensive webcams, microphones, and free videocalling Web client programs.

In the United States, videoconferencing has allowed testimony to be used for an individual who is unable or prefers not to attend the physical legal settings, or would be subjected to severe psychological stress in doing so, however there is a controversy on the use of testimony by foreign or unavailable witnesses via video transmission, regarding the violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.[48]

Students from diverse communities and backgrounds can come together to learn about one another through practices known as telecollaboration[53][54](in foreign language education) and virtual exchange, although language barriers will continue to be present.

Special peripherals such as microscopes fitted with digital cameras, videoendoscopes, medical ultrasound imaging devices, otoscopes, etc., can be used in conjunction with videoconferencing equipment to transmit data about a patient.

Recent developments in mobile collaboration on hand-held mobile devices have also extended video-conferencing capabilities to locations previously unreachable, such as a remote community, long-term care facility, or a patient's home.[61]

For example, for the 2013 award-winning animated film Frozen, Burbank-based Walt Disney Animation Studios hired the New York City-based husband-and-wife songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez to write the songs, which required two-hour-long transcontinental videoconferences nearly every weekday for about 14 months.[66][67][68][69]

One of the first demonstrations of the ability for telecommunications to help sign language users communicate with each other occurred when AT&T's videophone (trademarked as the 'Picturephone') was introduced to the public at the 1964 New York World's Fair –two deaf users were able to communicate freely with each other between the fair and another city.[73]

It was designed to output its video to the user's television in order to lower the cost of acquisition, and to offer remote control and a powerful video compression codec for unequaled video quality and ease of use with video relay services.

Coupled with similar high-quality videophones introduced by other electronics manufacturers, the availability of high speed Internet, and sponsored video relay services authorized by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in 2002, VRS services for the deaf underwent rapid growth in that country.[77]

The relative low cost and widespread availability of 3G mobile phone technology with video calling capabilities have given deaf and speech-impaired users a greater ability to communicate with the same ease as others.

Multilingual sign language interpreters, who can also translate as well across principal languages (such as a multilingual interpreter interpreting a call from a deaf person using ASL to reserve a hotel room at a hotel in the Dominican Republic whose staff speaks Spanish only, therefore the interpreter has to utilize ASL, spoken Spanish, and spoken English to facilitate the call for the deaf person), are also available, albeit less frequently.

Such activities involve considerable mental processing efforts on the part of the translator, since sign languages are distinct natural languages with their own construction, semantics and syntax, different from the aural version of the same principal language.

With video interpreting, sign language interpreters work remotely with live video and audio feeds, so that the interpreter can see the deaf or mute party, and converse with the hearing party, and vice versa.

Webcams are popular, relatively low cost devices which can provide live video and audio streams via personal computers, and can be used with many software clients for both video calls and videoconferencing.[19]

Typical use of the various technologies described above include calling or conferencing on a one-on-one, one-to-many or many-to-many basis for personal, business, educational, deaf Video Relay Service and tele-medical, diagnostic and rehabilitative use or services.

telepresence robot (also telerobotics) is a robotically controlled and motorized video conferencing display to help give a better sense of remote physical presence for communication and collaboration in an office, home, school, etc.

The movie was released shortly before AT&T began its efforts to commercialize its Picturephone Mod II service in several cities and depicts a videocall to Earth using an advanced AT&T videophone—which it predicts will cost $1.70 for a two-minute call in 2001 (a fraction of the company's real rates on Earth in 1968).

By the early 2010s videotelephony and videophones had become commonplace and unremarkable in various forms of media, in part due to their real and ubiquitous presence in common electronic devices and laptop computers.

In the mass market media, the popular U.S. TV talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey incorporated videotelephony into her TV program on a regular basis from May 21, 2009, with an initial episode called Where the Skype Are You?, as part of a marketing agreement with the Internet telecommunication company Skype.[94][95]