Kubi, a robotic platform created to enhance and improve the use of FaceTime, Skype, and other video calling and telepresence applications, is now available via Indiegogo and is the latest project from San Francisco-based Revolve Robotics. Currently while chatting over video using tablets, users have to maneuver them manually to show their surroundings to friends, family, or business contacts, or point to another person speaking. With Kubi, users set their tablet on the robot and callers on the other side can use its pan and tilt functionality via web-based remote controls to have the camera point in whatever direction they choose. The goal is to enhance the awareness of the other person’s surroundings and improve interaction and collaboration.
Co-founded by Marcus Rosenthal and Ilya Polyakov, the duo worked together previously at ArtificialMuscle, where they helped build ViviTouch, an interactive case for mobile social gaming, until the company was acquired. “We got into it because we were both traveling for our last job and constantly away from our family, co-workers, and just always felt really disconnected…that’s when we initially created a roaming [robot],” said Rosenthal in an interview with BetaKit. “What we figured out was that you were getting 90 percent of the value from looking around the room. That was the main benefit you were getting. But 90 percent of the cost was in the mobile platform that would get you from room to room. So we said ‘let’s just create a desktop platform that gives you that ability to look around.’”
Billed as an affordable mobile telepresencing platform, Kubi is currently priced at $249, with the company offering an early bird pricing of $199. Users can either take it with them when they travel, or permanently install it at home or in the office. By simulating how someone would scan and look around the room as if they were actually chatting in real-life via the remote enabled platform, users will be better able to utilize their tablets for remote video communication.
Mobile telepresencing robotics is an up-and-coming space with plenty of companies looking to enable users to rethink remote meetings and conferences. Specific to tackling the corporate meeting conundrum there’s Anybots QB and Y Combinator alum Double Robotics’ ‘iPad-on-wheels’ Double bot. Another startup, Romotive, also recently successfully closed their second Kickstarter campaign for Romo, a $150 robot that users hook up to their iPhone or iPod touch, however, the mini-robot is targeted more as a consumer product. Kubi’s main advantage according to Rosenthal is that instead of worrying about robots bumping into and maneuvering around objects or paying thousands of dollars, users could instead opt for their stationary bot, and for their price point purchase multiple units and install them in multiple rooms.
The company is looking to raise $200,000 to get the Kubi in production, and will be looking to develop and build out its integrated apps to let the two parties in a video chat control and look around the room. It will also be looking to add a ‘follow-me’ feature due to popular requests based on when the company has demoed the robot, which will enable Kubi to follow the person as they move around doing things like cooking while still speaking to someone. With applications for both personal and business use, Kubi has the potential to transform video chats from being limited to two stationary parties to feeling like they’re right in the room chatting like they would in person.