Telepresence robots give remote workers a physical presence in workplace

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 24, 2012 11:41 hrs

Wouldn't it be nice if you could send your duplicate to office while you enjoy a holiday break miles away.

It's possible now, thanks to telepresence robots.

Suitable Technologies has developed on such robot called the Beam- a mobile video-conferencing machine, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The five-foot-tall device, topped with a large video screen, allows Engineer Dallas Goecker to attend meetings, joke with colleagues and roam the office building just like other employees at his company in Silicon Valle, California, when he is actually more than 2300 miles away, working at home in Seymour, Indiana.

Suitable Technologies is one of more than a dozen companies that sell so-called telepresence robots.

These remote-controlled machines are equipped with video cameras, speakers, microphones and wheels that allow users to see, hear, talk and "walk" in faraway locations.

Technology watchers say these machines - sometimes called remote presence devices - could be used for many purposes. They could let managers inspect overseas factories, salespeople greet store customers, family members check on elderly relatives or art lovers tour foreign museums.

The Beam got its start as a side project at Willow Garage, a robotics company in Menlo Park where Goecker worked as an engineer.

A few years ago, he moved back to his native Indiana to raise his family, but he found it difficult to collaborate with engineering colleagues using existing video-conferencing systems.

So Goecker and his colleagues created their own telepresence robot - the Beam.

But the Beam isn't cheap and can cost you 15,740 dollars each.

Suitable Technologies says it was designed with features that make "pilots" and "locals" feel the remote worker is physically in the room: powerful speakers, highly sensitive microphones and robust wireless connectivity.

The company began shipping Beams last month, mostly to tech companies with widely dispersed engineering teams, officials said. (ANI)

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