While strolling through the aisles of the SXSW Interactive convention center, something immediately caught my attention...literally stopping me in my tracks. A roaming bot on wheels, standing about 5 feet tall with an LCD monitor affixed to it, turned and followed me. A live person greeted me through the screen. This was Beam, and it may be the new way you work from home.
The Beam devices seemed to catch everyone who wandered by the conventon hall corridor by surprise. I suppose rolling machines that turn and walk toward you, asking "How are you?" will tend to do that.
Talking to a device through a webcam attached to the wheeled bot is at first was awkward — you have the tendency to laugh, look around to see if someone else is behind you, before smiling back with a "you talking to me?" expression.
Once you start to engage in a conversation with the person behind the screen, you begin to settle in, and it becomes a more natural experience. You start to see how remote telepresence could become a more casual and broadly accepted form of communication — especially in the corporate office space where Beams are currently sold and marketed to.
The Beam devices are relatively easy to setup. The person behind the screen is working everything through a webcam and monitor setup as shown above. They control the bots movements simply with the arrows keys on any standard keyboard or with their mouse. This is all it takes to teleport you to wherever your beam bot may be...across cities, states, and even outside along 6th St in Austin.
Chris Perez is the Founding Editor of Citygram Austin Magazine.
He is an engineer and freelance writer / photographer based out of Austin, TX. He loves sharing stories about art, culture, food, and technology.
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