Communications technology continues to evolve to the point that phone conferences have morphed into Web conferencing, with visuals and sound to resemble the real thing.
Companies throughout the world have replaced travel with the virtual meeting. So effective is this strategy that organizations have found they can enjoy face-to-face communications on a regular basis without ever leaving the office.
But what if this conferencing were taken a step further and the screen transmitting the video were attached to wheels with speakers and a microphone? What if this device could follow you around, engaging in the necessary meetings and conversations? Would it add value to your interactions if your out-of-state colleague was controlling the device, navigating interactions as if they were in the same room, walking down the hall with you or attending the latest conference?
It may sound a little far-fetched, but this latest innovation in robotics was the focus of a recent Mashable post. A five-foot-tall robot named Beam may be the next thing to do away with the impersonal feeling generated by the standard conference call. With a large video screen acting as its head, Beam is expected to enable remote workers to feel like they’re a key part of the company culture, allowing the individual to see, hear, talk and ‘walk’ on wheels alongside colleagues.
Developed by Suitable Technologies, Beam is really just another robotics development designed to address the telepresence challenge. There are already dozens on the market, but can these ‘virtual workers’ improve the dynamics in the workplace?
And is the potential connection and bonding among workers worth the $16,000 price tag for a single Beam? If it means preserving the talents of a key professional, the price may be a mere inconvenience. Ongoing support costs, however, may be another story altogether – but it’s one that has yet to be told.
Newsday, which reported on the robotics development for Mashable, questions the viability of the device, especially considering the cost and the potential micromanagement. While they’re still not convinced, one engineer did test the Beam and reported a positive experience. In fact, this engineer told Newsday, “This gives you that casual interaction that you’re used to at work. I’m sitting in my desk area with everybody else. I’m part of their conversations and their socializing.”
It’s still too soon to tell whether Beam or any other robotics development will address the relationship and cultural gap for remote workers.
Until then, check out the video Mashable shared on its site, provided via the link above. Watching the Beam in action creates a reaction of its own.
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Edited by Braden Becker