While Star Trek fans bang on about how their favourite show inspired mobile tech, Cisco has been taking its inspiration from situation comedy.
The Big Bang Theory had an episode where one of the characters built a "shelbot" so that he did not have to go to work. The robot works fine until it meets Steve Wozniak in a restaurant and cannot get his autograph.
Now it turns out that Cisco has teamed up with robotics firm iRobot to create their own enterprise version of the 'Shelbot'.
Dubbed Ava 500, it uses iRobot's autonomous navigation with Cisco's TelePresence system. It means that a remote worker sitting in front of a video collaboration system can meet with colleagues in an office setting and take part in a facility tour.
It is not clear if it can open the doors itself.
According to TechWorld, the technology involved is not that great a leap. Ava 500 is essentially a Cisco TelePresence EX60 personal video endpoint mounted on top of an iRobot mobile robotics platform, which can self-navigate busy environments like offices, manufacturing floors and laboratories without bumping into people or objects.
It is controlled using an iPad interface. The remote user can select his or her destination by tapping a location on a map or by choosing a room or employee name.
An available robot is then activated to virtually "take" the user to make the trip from the charging station to selected location. It can be done in "private" mode where the screen appears blank – or in "public" mode where the user's face is displayed.
Snorre Kjesbu, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, told Techworld that, while browser-based telepresence clients can allow people to be more mobile, Ava 500 allows them to roam from a distance.
It also means that people will no longer have to get out of their desk to see colleagues. If someone could work out a way for staff to go to the loo without having to leave their desk, they may never have to leave it.