Telerobotics & Big Brother

The specter of telerobots roaming hallways and rooms will spark debate as to who should be able to view through the machine's eyes and when access should be granted. To further complicate the matter is the question of when recording will be allowed and disallowed. This is a delicate issue since we already have mobile telerobots living among us. While precedence philosophy (and law) for video recording in private and public spaces with and without various permissions may be applicable, there are still unresolved issues of surreptitious (and easily accomplished) video capture of web-based teleoperations.

There are many incentives and potential benefits to using video documentation in the investigation of claims of abuse in health care settings, questionable workplace practices or crimes committed telerobotically. Still, the issue is highly contentious and merits immediate attention; even without telerobotics the proliferation of camera installations ranges from toys (i.e. "nanny cams") and vending machines to highways and even bathrooms.

Regardless of the primary application for which mobile cameras are installed, it makes sense that security and emergency response team members should be able to commandeer telerobots as needed. The pros and cons of this capability should be rigorously debated in order to establish guidelines in the very near future. It is only a matter of time before the opportunity arises to use a telerobot to pull a baby or disabled person from a burning building.