Drive it now!
The Teleport Story
Tom Jacobs has just released a project he's been working on in one iteration or another since building a person-sized mobile telepresence robot to drive around San Francisco remotely back in 2011: TELEPORT. Based around the diminutive Raspberry Pi Zero W, Teleport is a device that comprises speakers, microphone, wheels, and a camera. The circuit board is a custom designed PCB with a stereo audio amplifier, motor drivers, battery charger, and buttons for controlling volume and music playback.
There are an increasing number of devices on the market that purport to offer a satisfying telepresence link to keep in touch with loved ones, but Teleport has one thing that sets it apart: Wheels.
Why is it important that it moves around on its own? Because otherwise you're at the mercy of the person with the device to move and look around. No more strained calls of "left a bit, closer, too close" needed; simply zip yourself across the table or floor with the arrow keys on your computer or phone on-screen joystick.
Teleport includes a 40W (!) stereo amplifier and speakers built into the device, which gives it a dual purpose; it doubles as a music player. This is no ordinary bluetooth speaker though. With 64GB of expandable storage, full hour-long mixtapes and albums in MP3 files are stored locally on the device, ready to be played with a push of a button on the back of the device with no paired phone needed.
Teleport has a simple websocket protocol for sending driving commands, music control commands, and streaming video and audio back from the device. This gives it the ability to be controlled from your phone in the next room, or routed through a server to be controlled from across the city or world from any place with internet access, not just from the local LAN.
Out of the box, Teleport comes with the C source code for building its one executable that runs the device, which handles H264 hardware video encoding, microphone access with auto-boost to pick up voices across the room, motor driver control, and a websocket server and client. Teleport broadcasts its own WiFi AP and serves a web app for driving from mobile or desktop, or can connect to your home WiFi and the websocket server running on AWS can even be used to relay video, audio, and control messages from across the world.
Teleport could go on to allow easier and more natural virtual presence in distant places, such as your home while you're travelling, your parents' home for calls or tech support, or a better way than calling and relying on a workmate to be a surrogate you in the office to fix a work jam or resolve an office discussion remotely.
The first few prototype units of Teleport are selling on hardware marketplace Tindie. So if you want to start video-conferencing with style and control, or simply want to hack on a Pi that already has sound input and output, grab yourself one before the early run sells out.
- Raspberry Pi Zero W with wide angle camera and 64GB microSD card
- 2x 23 Watt speaker drivers, 2x speakers
- 1x MEMS microphone
- 4x motor drivers, 2x gear motors, 2x wheels
- 3000mAh LiPo battery with charger circuit
- QI wireless charging ready
- 3D printed housing
- Custom designed PCB with 4x buttons
- Comes with device C source code, install scripts, build system, and README