Kubi: Really cool, effective, robotic telepresence

See and be seen in meetings with Kubi

It's quite common to have remote workers join in a staff meeting but telephone or VoIP connections don't make the experience engaging. Video conferencing using a service such as Skype is a whole lot better but there's a static quality to the interaction. If you want to get a much more engaging presence for remote staff members then you need a Kubi from Revolve Robotics.

Kubi is a robotic stand that holds a pad computer in either landscape or portrait orientation and allows you to pan and tilt it via remote control. So, as different people speak, the remote user connecting via, say, Skype running on the pad, can turn their virtual presence to each speaker in turn (its range is 300° pan and +/- 45° tilt) and as the remote user's image is displayed on the pad there's a more connected feeling than just having a faceless camera. The Kubi also has an internal battery so it can operate unplugged for up to 4 hours (depending on the amount of use).

The Kubi is a solidly engineered device compatible with iPad 3, 4, Air, and Minis as well as Android tablets with Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Smart) running JellyBean 4.3/KitKat 4.4+. 

Apps to control a Kubi for iOS and Android are available from the Apple App Store and the Google Play store respectively. Alternatively you can login to the kubi.me site and enter your Kubi's ID to take control.

The Kubi apps and Web site all provide a user interface that shows either a grid or conference layout but not the video from the camera. In grid mode you can click anywhere on the canvas to move the pad and save positions. Similarly the conference mode displays a plan view of a table around which you can place and name markers for each participant as well as set the tilt for each. You can also select either rounded or square ends, table size, and the location of the Kubi. In either mode, clicking on saved locations send the Kubi to the required position.

There are also third party apps that can directly drive a Kubi such as PresencePro for iOS. This app has built-in support for Kubi and knows how to pair with it. When accessed from a remote PresencePro app, controls the orientation of the Kubi by swiping on the displayed remote image. PresencePro also supports movement detection and event recording with optional push notifications.

The Kubi is very slick and well made though the documentation is minimal. I'm surprised that Kubi doesn't offer a basic app that supports video or make the third party apps that are available more visible. All the same, this is great concept well executed and at $499 affordable. The Kubi gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

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