Do Telepresence Robots Need Arms?


Story by Angelica Lim

“Yes, absolutely,” says Dr. Fumihide Tanaka, a professor at Tsukuba University in Japan, when asked if he thinks telepresence robots need arms.

The current wave of commercial telepresence robots such as Beam, AvaVgo, Double, and Anybots are helping people who live far apart connect socially with friends and colleagues. Conspicuously, though, they do not have arms or hands, sometimes being called “Skype on wheels.” The ultra-realistic Geminoid androids, designed to be teleoperated, do have arms and hands, but they don’t move.

After observing people interacting with robots for over 10 years, in multiple countries, Tanaka is convinced that robots with functional arms provide a better experience to users. “Arms and hands increase the opportunities for physical participation,” he says.

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