Richard Garriott's a busy guy. He's a newlywed. He's a private astronaut. He's building a mansion while selling his old one. He's currently living in New York while running a 25-person game development studio based in Austin, Texas.
Technically named QB60, the robot who runs the Portalarium game studio in Garriott's absence is a high-tech Mini-Me. Through him, Garriott can participate in meetings, chat with coworkers and look over people's shoulders -- even when he's 1,800 miles away.
The robot comes from a company called Anybots and cost Garriott $15,000. It moves around much like a Segway, zipping about on a pair of wheels, and comes equipped with two cameras, a microphone and a speaker.
While it's now his office stand-in, QB60 originally filled in for Garriott's mother at his wedding.
Last summer, Garriott got married at a 500-year old chateau in France. His mother, who lives in Las Vegas, wasn't able to handle the long trip out there, so he bought the robot to stand in her place. It allowed her to not only witness the ceremony, but navigate the reception, talk with guests and be a part of the celebration.
"One of the best scenes at the wedding," says Garriott, "was my mother, you know, fully dressed at the end of the evening on the dance floor, on the disco dance floor, you know, with that nice parquet floor, us in our wedding gown and wedding attire, all of our friends dressed to the teeth, colored laser lights going all over the place -- and my mother here as the robot, jamming down with all the youngsters on the dance floor."
When he got home, he put the robot to work — and the Portalarium staff has largely welcomed the would-be Johnny 5.
There's just one problem.
"When you're driving the robot, you don't have the same sense of personal space, so it's hard to stop at the right distance from people," says Garriott.
It might be an odd way to run a company, but Garriott notes that QB60 actually cuts down on expenses, since he doesn't have to travel back and forth between the cities as often. And really, would you expect anything else from a man who owns property on the moon?
- Richard Garriott