Double take: The robot takeover has begun

This attorney rolls around the office on wheels, sits in his charging dock on breaks

“Felix2,” the robot double attorney Felix Tschanz uses to work remotely at First Nationwide Title Agency’s Long Island office
“Felix2,” the robot double attorney Felix Tschanz uses to work remotely at First Nationwide Title Agency’s Long Island office

The vendor visiting First Nationwide Title Agency was taken aback when Felix2 came up from behind.

“I just quietly rolled up on him, like a bee honing in,” Felix Tschanz recalled. “He just kind of froze up.”

The surprise was that this version of the firm’s senior attorney was a five-foot-tall Segway with an iPad for a head.

The real Felix was 300 miles away in Upstate New York, controlling his robotic double.

On any given day at First Nationwide’s Long Island office, it’s far more likely to see Felix2 roam through than the flesh-and-blood Tschanz, who makes a literal appearance only about five times a year.

Tschanz loves technology and was tired of juggling gadgets to stay in touch with his colleagues when working remotely.  So in a field that’s not all that cutting-edge — “law is not really that innovative, nor is title insurance” — Tschanz listened to his futurist side and last year got Felix2, a “double” made by Sunnyvale, California-based Double Robotics.

“It gives it that personal touch when you can roll up and see people’s expression,” Tschanz said. “You can even sense the pulse of the office.”

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Felix2 sits in on meetings and interacts with staff.  Tschanz can log in at any time and send the robot out of its charging dock and through the office.

“Felix mentioned to me right away that it just feels much more natural,” said Justin Beatty, Double Robotics’ director of sales. “He didn’t want to feel that he was being replaced by something that didn’t feel personable to him.”

Beatty has a San Francisco customer in real estate who uses his double to show high-end condos. In one instance, the agent put his double in a unit that drew interest from prospective buyers in Saudi Arabia, so the clients could log in for a tour from the other side of the world.

Doubles are used by telecommuters, kids home sick from school and even doctors trying to limit running between different hospital wings.  The first shipped in 2013 and there are now about 5,000 around the world.

Tschanz hopes to get one — Felix3? — for First Nationwide’s Manhattan office next.

He’s also looking forward to getting a set of arms and other updates.

“If we had arms, we’d really take over the world.”