Cheap Thoughts: Telepresence

Speaking of working from home, we have an arrangement here at work that is a pretty interesting use of telepresence tools. One of our developers works remotely but needs to attend occasional meetings. Rather than fly him in and out, we’ve set him up with a Wifi-enabled camera which he can use to pan, tilt, and zoom around the room. All that’s missing is some way for him to drive the camera from room to room and he could be virtually here. The camera isn’t cheap but it easily paid for itself the very first time it kept our developer from traveling.

I was thinking of bringing in my now-unused Roomba vacuum and using that to move the camera around. I could slap a small UPS battery on top to power the camera and interface it with the camera software to let it be controlled remotely.

Another thing that would be useful to telepresence tools would be an additional fisheye-lens camera. This should show the whole room in a separate window while the main camera is pointed somewhere else. When the viewer needs to focus on something or someone in the room, the viewer will know where the main camera needs to be pointed. Better yet, the viewer could simply click on a point on the room image and the main camera would point there. That might make it painless enough that attending a meeting virtually wouldn’t be so much about fiddling with the tools but being able to focus on the meeting itself.

Interesting stuff. I’ll have to see what I can put together to make this work.

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