Co-developed by Cisco, Ava 500 features a 21.5-inch LCD screen and boasts dual benefits of telepresence (via Cisco’s Telepresence EX60 software) and a physical presence through iRobot’s autonomous robotic base. The self-driven robot uses 3D cameras, laser, and sonar to create a virtual map of its environment.
Users can remotely schedule and control Ava 500 using an iPad, selecting the destination by tapping a location on a map or by choosing a location or employee name. The robot then autonomously navigates its way to the desired location and initiates the call using Cisco TelePresence EX60. When a meeting is over, Ava returns to a charging dock, so it can operate without assistance for a while.
“The biggest elements in favor of telepresence robots are the freedom of movement, spontaneity and physical presence,” says Youssef Saleh, senior vice president and general manager of iRobot’s Remote Presence business unit. “Instead of being a video on the wall or a voice on the phone, you get a real presence in the room.”
Ava 500 intelligently and safely self-navigates busy, real-world enterprise environments without bumping into people or objects. Manual operations to rotate the robot, move the telepresence system up and down and to tilt the camera are provided for more refined control.
iRobot expects Ava 500 to be leased for around $2,500 per month or cost $69,500 when purchased outright.
iRobot recommends Ava 500 for remote management, collaborative work environments, manufacturing, supply chain/logistics, data centers, laboratories/clean rooms, call centers, executive briefing centers, customer experience centers and customer training environments. Other possibilities: security, caregiver support, factory inspection, material transplant, mobile kiosks and remote retail product expert chat.
A Growing Telepresence?
How much of a boon will Ava 500 be to iRobot? Early Monday, after news broke about Ava 500, iRobot shares rose by more than 9 percent.
In its fourth quarter and full year 2013 conference call, iRobot said only $1 million of its $126.3 million Q4 sales came from its RP-VITA telepresence robots that were unveiled in July 2012. However, iRobot said its remote presence unit will bring in about $5 million in revenue for 2014. Overall, its home robot business will bring in $500 million to $515 million in revenue for 2014 and the defense and security unit will have sales of about $50 million.
iRobot’s fortunes have improved markedly of late. Revenue for Q4 was up 25 percent to $126.3 million, compared to $100.7 million in Q4 2012. Revenue for the full year was $487.4 million, compared with $436.2 million for the full year 2012. Net income for Q4 was $3.2 million, compared with a net loss of $5.9 million for Q4 2012. Net income for the full year 2013 was $27.6 million, compared with $17.3 million for full-year 2012.
“We are pleased to see iRobot achieve this (latest) important milestone,” says Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group. “For truly amazing things to happen, video needs to be available everywhere – on every pane of glass, in every meeting space and in all the spaces in between. The combination of Cisco TelePresence, Cisco wireless networking and iRobot autonomous mobility will help customers collaborate in new ways.”
ABI Research projects the global market for telepresence robots will reach $13 billion by 2016, up from $556.1 million in 2010. Ava 500 might be a significant factor in these projected numbers.