Skype Robot: A Telepresence Tool

A recent visitor to our studio asked for plans to build their own version of our Skype* Robot**, the telepresence system that we use to link our Philadelphia and New York offices. 


Here’s a list of the components we put together for our dedicated telepresence tool:

  • Mac Mini  (or, if the people using your system are more familiar with Windows or Linux, a small computer with the operating system of your choice.)
  • Speaker/Mic or speakerphone - ClearOne Chat 160 - This is probably the most important piece of equipment on the list. The Chat 160 has a long cord, so you can position close to whoever is speaking, and it manages to pick up clear audio from a medium-sized group of people.
  • Webcam  We use a Logitech 1080p Webcam Pro, but there are many others that work well. If you buy one with a mic built in, be sure to set your audio settings to use your Speaker/mic instead of the mic built in to your webcam.
  • Base  Luxor Adjustable Height AV Cart
  • Monitor Arm  Ergotron Desk Mount LCD Arm
  • Monitor - Make sure that it is compatible with the VESA mount on your monitor arm.
  • Keyboard and mouse - we use a wireless keyboard and mouse so that the person controlling the Skype Robot can sit at a distance.
  • A piece of wood - We found that the top of the AV cart we bought wasn’t quite rigid enough to support the LCD arm and monitor. Adding a piece of plywood cut so that it fit inside the ridges at the top of the cart solved this problem.

We often leave the Skype connection between our offices open all day so we can have a quick discussion or just say “hi.” 

If you’re thinking about making your own telepresence tool, don’t be fooled into thinking that setting up a video link is just a technical problem. You can buy the fanciest, most expensive system on the market and you’ll still find that video conferences can cause a lot of stress. We’ve captured everything we’ve learned about how to have a successful video conference in our guide How to Video Conference Without Having an Aneurysm on our tools page

* Can be used with many other services besides Skype
** Not actually a robot

Nick Jehlen's picture
Nick Jehlen is a partner at The Action Mill