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Can’t Make a Conference? Send a Robot Instead

Now, even if you can't swing the trip to the First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism, you can send a robot instead

smithsonian.com

Image: Suitable

Sometimes you just can’t make both the Twin Days Festival and the Celebrity Impersonators Convention in one year. But now, even if you can’t swing the trip to the First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism, you can send a robot instead.

Eliza Strickland at IEEE Spectrum took Beam telepresence up on their offer to test out the robots and “attend” the FutureMed conference:

As I found out when I logged onto a Beam parked in the FutureMed conference hall, the experience can be challenging when people aren’t accustomed to dealing with robots. The hall was crowded with attendees, many of whom assumed that there was no human presence within my machine, and felt no compunction about pushing past my Beam or blocking its way. A few people did react with surprise to my video face and smiled or waved, but in general I didn’t make much progress. The Beam doesn’t contain any safeguards in terms of impact-avoidance—I was in full control of the machine, and if I tried to proceed it seemed likely that I’d ram into people, run over their toes, and in general cause havoc.

Beam telepresence robots aren’t just for conferences, Suitable says on their website:

Beam began as a solution to our own frustrations with remote work. Despite the variety of existing technologies like email, chat, and videoconferencing, we found that our remote team members felt isolated, things got lost in translation, and calling multiple meetings for daily work was disruptive. Then it hit us: What if our distributed team could just be together?

And other publications have tested out the remote office capabilities. Jacob Ward used it to carry out his duties as editor in chief of Popular Science from across the country. Paul Miller at The Verge tested it out too, rolling around the Suitable offices and meeting their employees:

It bears repeating that I “met” all of these people via Beam. The audio and video quality was sufficient to allow for Beam-to-Beam interactions, which were only barely inferior to IRL ones. At one point I was huddled up with three other Beams, picking the brains behind them and attempting to learn the proper etiquette for Beam “body language,” when a local spoke up: “This is kind of weird, I’m the only human here.”

So the next time you have to miss that conference or meeting, think about sending a robot to be there for you.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Robots Get Their Own Internet
A Real, Working Transformer Robot!

About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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