LoveAtFirstBeamI discovered telepresence by happy accident. A friend of mine in the robotics industry sent me a link to the Suitable Technologies website after a conversation at dinner one night. Fascinated, I signed up on their mailing list and started learning more about it. When I was asked to speak at the Spark The Change conference about remote teams doing great things, the idea of using the Beam Pro came to mind immediately. I wanted to both try it out for giving a presentation, and allow others to beam into the conference to attend talks they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see.

I was soon put in touch with Awabot, the European reseller in Lyon and we scheduled a time to take a test drive. I’ve got to admit, it was love at first beam. My brain was spinning with the potential that this form of telepresence offered – and indeed, offers: museums are offering remote tours, doctors are developing remote surgery techniques, schools are using them for remote classroom participants… the list goes on and on. And down the rabbit hole I went!

I started VirtualTeabeaming into conferences. I even scheduled a “virtual tea” with a friend of mine living in Canada. She and I met each other in robots at a conference in Las Vegas where we hung out and roamed the booths together (she was beaming in from on top of a mountain, by the way!).

I discovered that NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) was offering robot tours of their office in California and I enthusiastically beamed in – and accidentally had my first “virtual water cooler” conversation.

Suitable Technologies has been experimenting with “beaminars” (instead of webinars) to encourage more engagement, learning, and interaction during presentations. It’s a fabulous way to actually meet people from all over the world who are interested in the same things… all from the comfort of your own home.

Even Happy Melly has been inspired!

She is a delight! Very friendly and agile, always available when you need her in meetings or just for a quick chat. She gets around the office quite nimbly and can manoeuvre herself almost everywhere, but she is a bit wary of power cables and stairs.

To me, this form of telepresence enhances the human virtual experience in unique and important ways: it’s a couple of steps up from video conferencing because you have mobility and a sensation of 3D sound while in the robot.

InfoQ recently published the video of the talk I gave at the Spark The Change conference. Check it out!

InfoQ SparkTheChange

And here are a few quotes from some of the participants who beamed into the conference:

Spark_RobinWoutersBeaming in at the Spark The Change conference was like Futurama-teleporting to an event while sitting behind my desk and drinking a cup of coffee. It was actually quite bizarre to be somewhere else, while not actually being there. The Beam Pro technology enabled me to attend a conference I should’ve missed otherwise. This technology not only enables us to be more flexible in where we work: it also affects the way we travel around the globe to meet new people and share interesting ideas. How great would it be, if we could be at any place, any time we want, just by beaming in? I look forward to it. – Robin Wouters

Spark_LisaJeffreyBeaming in to Spark the Change took the idea of live streamed/tweeted conference sessions and transformed it into an even more interactive and enabling experience – an experience that came into its own when I got to roll the ‘bot around the room and interact with conference speaker Matt Ballantine and the Beam team! – Lisa Jeffery

Spark_DawnaJonesBeaming in remotely was an exciting and weird all at once. I appreciated the real time face to face and enjoyed being in the room with the presenter. Lisette was great at helping me steer and place myself so I was out of the way (how can you tell), yet in a spot to watch the program. Height is fixed so you see what you’re pointed at – ultimately I wish for a tilt feature but meanwhile, this is a blast and can certainly bring down the costs of being in person without sacrificing interaction. – Dawna Jones

I’m offering robot tours for anyone who is interested. Simply email me or leave a comment on this blog post – and I’ll meet you in Lyon… virtually!