An interactive avatar who can move around independently in a trade show booth, able to see, hear and speak naturally is definitely a conversation-starter on the exhibit hall floor. CHOPS has found a way to do just that, by using MantaroBot’s TeleMe system and telepresence technology.

An exhibitor using this device could have their own avatar leading groups to specific locations within the booth from the aisle – giving them an ice-breaker that is totally unlike anything ever seen on the trade show floor. Gary Jesch, whose avatars traditionally appear on flat screens mounted on immovable stands, sees a powerful WOW! factor when an avatar can approach a show attendee and begin speaking with that person, just like a real person would.

The MantaroBot TeleMe is a remotely operated mobile telepresence platform that uses a tablet’s camera, display, microphone and speakers to comprise the telepresence robot “head.” When connecting via Skype or GoToMeeting, CHOPS appears on the Apple iPad “head” and can interact with people in real time. Any of the CHOPS characters can be used, and Gary Jesch is located behind the scenes, controlling both the avatar and the robot’s movement.

Brash on the Mantarobot

Interactive avatar “Brash Landau” appears on the MantaroBot, about four to five feet off the ground. The rechargeable base can easily move around via remote control.

The MantaroBot is controlled remotely by the puppeteer who can see where he’s going, thanks to the iPad’s video camera. Not only can he move the robot around, but he can also tilt the head and rotate it separately, giving about 180 degrees of vision without moving the robot. The system also has collision detection devices with indicators for the operator to notice when the robot is near an object in the booth.
The MantaroBot’s control software is on a separate connection from the videoconferencing program.

The “head” of the robot, the iPad, can come in either landscape or portrait configurations. With Skype and other conferencing software, you might also see what the MantaroBot is seeing in a small window on the screen, indicating that the device’s webcam is working.

Virtual Mark Twain on the Mantarobot
“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated, thanks to virtual reality.” – Virtual Mark Twain

Trade show applications have their challenges when it comes to telepresence – noise on the show floor, high traffic areas and lots of people, and internet connections that are often very busy during big events. While MantaroBot may not be suitable for shows as big as CES, it could be perfect for industry niches like healthcare, technology, finance and many other categories. At the moment, we are suggesting that the Digital Puppeteer(TM) operator running the MantaroBot device still be onsite, hidden in a work area as usual, but we can see the day when Gary could be working the trade show from his homebase near Lake Tahoe, showing up on the trade show floor as an avatar/robot.