Here's the future of sales -- using a remote presence from afar rather than an actual human.
While rushing to make my interview with MHL and MOGA at CES, I was stopped by an approaching robot to my right. There were actually three, and a crowd had gathered around to see what the talking, rolling machines had to say. Once I paused to take a proper look, I realized they weren't robots at all, but rather monitors on wheels.
Suitable Technologies was showcasing its Beam Remote Presence, a device that actually lets you move and communicate with others without having to leave the home or office. It stood under six feet, comprised of a moving base with wheels, and a display with two built-in cameras mounted on two support beams.
As I approached the booth, it moved towards me and said "hello, how's the show?" The display featured the operator's face, an attractive booth girl loading up the charm to sell the product. Naturally, I fell for the trick, and began chatting away to this thing with a girl's cute face.
On her end, the girl said she was siting at her PC somewhere in California. She could move the Beam device simply by using the directional keys on her keyboard. The actual social interaction seemed instantaneous, and she said that communication is done over Wi-Fi or mobile 4G.
The device can turn in place, and moves fast enough to keep up with a walking person. When I would move around "her," she could follow, and when when I thought I was standing out of sight just behind the device, she said she could still see my purple shoes thanks to a camera mounted on the bottom of the monitor, pointing down.
Applications for this type of device would include attending a meeting remotely, or allowing someone who can't travel a chance to see the sights without leaving the confines of their wheelchair, bed, or home. The Beam device didn't look sturdy enough for hazardous environments, but we imagine it's only a matter of time before a rugged version arrives.
Pricing starts at $16,000, and more information can be accessed here. Here's a list of the relevant specs:
* 17-inch screen, so your face is human size
* 1.58m (5' 2") frame, so your body is human size
* Top speed of 1.5 m/s (3 mph), so you can keep up
* Two wide-angle HD cameras, for full visual awareness
* Six-microphone array with noise reduction and echo cancellation, for full audio awareness
* Powerful built-in speaker, so you will be heard
* Two dual-band radios with proprietary roaming algorithms, for seamless WiFi connectivity
* Industry-standard encryption of all communication