A telepresence robot was recently liberated from its prison: a locked meeting room. Built by Double Robotics, the robot was placed in the room so that users could remotely demo the system. It’s intended to provide an in-office presence for people who work remotely. But one anonymous man took it on as a personal challenge to free the bot.
The robot liberator was thrown a lucky break one day when someone left the door slightly ajar. He then carefully negotiated the bot into a small space between the opening and the plant and gradually eased the door open with a series of careful movements. At one point, he accidentally closed the door but later realized he could re-open it by slamming into the doorframe. Ultimately, he opens the door, drives out of the conference room and explores the rest of Double Robotics.
“Shortly after the escape shown in this video, I did it again but was accosted by an employee in the hallway,” the man, who refused to give him name, said in an email interview with Robot Magazine. “Since then the door has been dead-bolted. It also appears that they have modified the robots software to stop short of any object about 1 foot in front of it… essentially rendering interaction with the material world impossible. You can however back up into things.”
The man estimates that freeing the robot took him approximately five hours, with him “logging on periodically (maybe once or twice a day) looking for opportunities to exploit” for several weeks. “Occasionally someone else would would be using it,” he said, “or its battery had died and [it] was therefore offline.”
The unidentified man says he has no plans to liberate other robots and that it was all done in fun. Double Robotics took the prank in the same light.
“We think it was great,” said Marc DeVidts, co-founder of Double Robotics who said that the video wasn’t part of any marketing plan by the company. “Obviously, there are some jokers out there. We offer a business oriented tool, but some people see it as a fun toy.” The fact that the door was ever open, he says, was purely “a fluke.”