This week both, the New York Times and our friends over at the IEEE Spectrum's Automaton blog have run Special Series on Telepresence Robots. Apart from research projects in various stages, a number of companies including AnyBots, VGo communications, PAL Robotics, RoboDynamics and Willow Garage offer commercial telepresence solutions for a variety of applications from replacing static videoconferencing systems all the way to telemedicine.
The two series highlight advantages of telepresence robots over traditional video telephony, which mainly hinge on the very different reaction of people to a moving entity as opposed to a face on a static screen, but also show the many challenges that remain, such as acceptance of this radically new technolgy in the work environment or seemingly simple obstacles like closed doors, that can prove unsurmountable obstacles for the arm-less telepresence robots.
All things considered, telepresence looks like it's set for a bright future on earth, but also in space: On November 1st NASA will launch its Robonaut 2 humanoid aboard space shuttle Discovery to take up its permanent residence on the International Space Station to work alongside humans as a robotic helper.
For more info, take a look at the articles in the IEEE Spectrum and the New York Times.