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iRobot Ava 500

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TECH TOY

While telecommuting has been on the rise for years, managers often say there’s a disconnect when a person doesn’t have a physical presence in the office. The new iRobot Ava 500 offers users a “telepresence” by extending the power of in-person capabilities while working from a distance.

A highly sophisticated video conferencing device, the 65-in.-tall Ava 500 can move about hallways, conference rooms, offices and warehouses. Cameras, sensors and monitors allow users to chat with colleagues and sit in on meetings. Each robot builds and maintains a precise map of the location where it resides; through the use of the Cisco TelePresence EX Series personal system, the device uses autonomous navigation and can go to selected destinations without user guidance.

Video is broadcast on a 21.5-in. screen with 1080p resolution. The batteries last approximately six hours on a full charge; when a session is complete, the robot automatically returns to its dock for charging. The iRobot will be available in early 2014 from select Cisco certified resellers and is expected to rent for around $2,500 per month.

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