Don’t call them robots.
They’re the roving component of a “smart telepresence system,” which enables you to be in two places at once via a petite-person-sized rolling video display that puts your face on a screen at approximate eye-level height and allows two-way visual communication that lets you see the world through an eye-level fish-eye video lens.
“Your garage door is more of a robot that we are,” says a Beam mobile smart telepresence representative named “Taylor in NYC” who rolled up and introduced himself to me and my friend Jimi Gonzalez from ION Electric at the InfoComm 2015 show in Orlando, Florida today. Robotics refers to automation, and the only part automated part of a Beam mobile telepresence device is the one that allows it to dock itself into a charging station with minimal human interaction.
When he’s not working the booth at a show, Taylor is the remote manager of a Beam store in Palo Alto, California. “It’s our first unmanned retail store,” he said.
Sitting in his New York office, Taylor has taken his Beam self out for some amazing adventures in Palo Alto. Using a Beam with a little basket attached to the front of it, he’s rolled into an ice cream shop and bought some dessert for Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley luminaries, in the ultimate demonstration of future remote representation of self.
Taylor is very engaging, and you soon forget he’s encased in a plastic shell rolling around the floor via remote desktop control. He provides examples of sick children attending school via Beam (a product name that really does kinda refer to the idea of beaming yourself somewhere else), paralyzed people visiting museums and legitimately heartwarming examples of families keeping in touch with loved ones via telepresence.
From a business standpoint, Beam can eliminate travel time and budget for executives, college recruiters or maybe the occasional systems tech who needs to check on a “broken” AV system. “I’ve had meetings in three different continents in the same hour,” Taylor says.
After speaking with Taylor for quite a long time, and witnessing other Beam booth visitors sitting comfortably in front of a computer and remotely operating a video representation of themselves on a tour of the Beam manufacturing facility, I was convinced that this is not just a novelty thing. It has real use cases, and if you want to try it, the Beam Pro and Beam Plus (a smaller model that is often used for elder care and other distance applications) can be leased or purchased for not too hefty a price, all told. Think of all the money you’ll save on flights… Or if flying can’t be avoided, consider putting your Beam representative on a flight in place of yourself.