In fact, that?s exactly what Cupertino?s much-hyped product release provides: telepresence on the cheap. Yes, you need a person to carry the iPad from room to room or focus its high-def video camera on a patient in a hospital or at the innards of a complicated machine tool that needs repair by an expert half a world away. But the need for human assistance is a minor issue when you factor in the Apple device?s easy learning curve and myriad other uses (Read CNET?s comprehensive iPad coverage.)
In work settings, where many variables must be monitored and controlled, the utility and value proposition of a tablet is hard to beat. Even iRobot chose not to re-invent the wheel when it opted to use the iPad 2 as the controller for its AVA telepresence platform.
The question is how should the makers of other, more expensive telepresence devices respond?
Perhaps in several ways:
1. Recognize that the era of generic telepresence is over ? and before it really began. There are too many companies chasing a nascent market.
2. Specialization will be the key to success. Niche markets exist for hospitals and food-processing plants, for example, where frequent sanitizing is a necessity. Plug and play sensors ? such as infrared cameras or labs on a chip ? can augment the usefulness of generic telepresence devices.
3. Join the Apple or Android ecosystems of aftermarket products. Major digital camera makers such as Nikon sell a stripped down housing ? along with a catalog full of compatible lenses, flashes, and other add ons. Similarly, telepresence providers should create apps and linkable devices that seamlessly hook up to a tablet PC.
4. Focus on the interface. As Heartland Robotics founder Rod Brooks told robotics developers, interfaces should be as easy to use and intuitive as those found in video games. The simple, yet powerful, capabilities of the tablet touch screen make this the task of developing an easy-to-learn interface fairly straightforward, and consumers have come to expect exactly that.
The telepresence market will develop, but the new iPad and its soon-to-follow competitors, are sure to change how that development will occur.Read More