Robotic Giraffe

This interesting contraption is a remote controlled robot called the Giraffe, made by HeadThere Inc. of San Francisco. It connects via Wi-Fi or G3 to the net and you control it from anywhere in the world, sending it rolling through your office, home, whatever. Via camera and microphone you see everything it sees, and via speaker and video screen people see and hear you as well.

That’s right, your very own roving telepresence! No longer is this technology only the plaything of NASA and big city bomb squads. Just like it says on the HeadThere website, you can be in two places at one time.

I can see people buying this. Really. Unlike many, I think there is a huge market out there for this device. In my mind’s eye, in fact, I can see these things wandering all over the Google office complex, dodging Segues and Aibos. I also see paranoid parents forcing teens to take it along on dates. I can see it rolling into university classes while the students remain in the dorm nursing a hangover.

Also, mark my words, it will end up one of the most abused and vandalized pieces of technology since the payphone. In an office environment, indignant workers will cover it with plastic bags, kick it over, and throw it down stairs. At home, being used as a baby sitter, the kids will plot evil against the poor thing and blame it on the dog.

Oh, woe is the Giraffe. It will be a hard life, to be sure. I think it’s a cool, smart, and well-meaning gizmo, but really … I feel very sad for it.

It’s doomed.

UPDATE: I just had an interesting email exchange with Roy Sandberg, the founder of HeadThere Inc. He pointed out an important fact: The Giraffe does have an off switch.

After another conversation about it, this time with my girlfriend, she and I decided the attitude toward the Giraffe would depend completely upon its use … if it’s used as a communications device, then it should be relatively innocuous. If it’s being used to check up on you, that is where the animosity comes into play.

It’s an interesting subject because as we go from here, mobile telepresence will become more and more common.


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[…] It appears the HeadThere Giraffe has some competition from iRobot. […]