Robot dad: I built a smartphone bot to spend time with my kids

Divorce can be a painful experience, especially when it means one parent doesn’t see as much of their kids as they used to.

When divorcee Matt Walker met his future second wife in the US, he knew things would only get worse for him spending time with his two boys, Jarvis, 9 and Maxi, 7.

That’s why he built the RambleBot.

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Matt Walker is Robot Dad. Photo: Matt Walker

It looks like a miniature white tank but instead of a cannon it has an arm with a gripper. There’s a smartphone holder at the top where Matt’s face appears.
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From his home in San Jose, California — where he lives with his current wife and seven-month-old son Jack — Matt logs into the RambleBot that lives at his ex wife’s house 11,410 kilometres away in Brisbane, Australia, and hangs out with his sons, controlling the robot with an app and talking via Skype. He’s done this every other day for the last three years.

The robot has a big battery which lasts about two days. The smartphone battery runs out faster, so Matt adds a battery extender case. When the RambleBot is plugged in, it will charge the phone.

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Matt Walker Skyping his son Jarvis as the RambleBot. Photo: Matt Walker

Matt acknowledges the unusual set-up may have its critics because it’s essentially parenting at a distance.

“What’s he [my son] going to tell his psychoanalyst in the future — my father was a tiny little robot?” Matt jokes.

“Telepresence will never be as good as being there in real life. READ MORE.