Beam+ Takes You There

Beam+ Takes You There

On a typical weekday morning, Victor Cho can turn on his Beam+ and experience breakfast time with his children while he’s hundreds of miles away.

Cho, the CEO of Evite, uses the controls on his computer at his Los Angeles office to move the Beam+ around his family’s kitchen in Northern California. He enjoys casual conversations with his two daughters, aged 8 and 6. He can drive the Beam+ using computer keyboard controls and dual cameras for front and floor views that provide peripheral vision to make him feel he’s in the room. He can look at what the children are doing and they can see his face on the screen. “It’s being there at the same time, paying attention to that person, and looking at that person,” he says.

Robot-3The girls have made it a natural part of their morning interaction with him. “I will walk them out the door and say bye to them, wishing them a good day at school,” Cho says, laughing. After school, or at evening play time, he can be doing work nearby while the kids play with Lego blocks.

For Cho, the Beam+ has made a significant, positive difference in his quality of life since he installed it this past summer. But that is just one way Cho benefits. Like many business people working in a global economy, his life happens in multiple places. With the Beam+, he also makes his presence felt among colleagues at Evite’s satellite offices in Chicago and New York. Employees of the growing online invitation and social planning company have also improved the quality of their remote interactions. While they once felt distant and removed, they now feel like they’re practically in the same space.

What’s clear is that once Cho starting using the Beam+, he started to see more ways to take advantage of what it offers. It’s the same kind of experience for other Beam+ owners, like Steve Simons and John O’Mullane. Even though all three executives are leaders in very different organizations, they each find a growing number of reasons to power up their Beam+ and BeamPro devices.

A Close-Up View for Product Demos

At his workshop in Mountain View, Calif., Steve Simons has developed a product that automates the work of precision milling machines that make metal parts. Instead of having a person manually feeding and cleaning materials, Simons Design Innovation has launched the Smart Valet, a material loading platform that is “like a bar feeder for your mill.” The goal: keep more machine shop jobs in the U.S. by making American plants more cost effective.

For prospective customers, it is important to see the Smart Valet in action. A YouTube video is fine to entice more interest. A trade show display is good, but often rushed, Simons says. What really works is inviting customers to drive a Beam+ around the workshop area where a Smart Valet is operating. That way, Simons says, the customer can see what he wants, when he wants, and can ask questions about what is in view.

“Typically we can send them a video. But we can develop a lot more interest if they can see the device run in person and see all the features and ask questions,” Simons says. “Once they start looking and asking questions, we have a pretty good conversation with them over using the Beam.”

This interaction saves both Simons’ company and the prospective customer from traveling during preliminary conversations and has shortened the sales process in some cases. “It has made the difference in at least the timing of the sale. We got the customer’s attention and we were able to explain why this is going to help them make money. I don’t think we would have been able to do it without the use of the Beam,” Simons says.
The video and sound quality (the Beam+ uses a microphone array that cancels out the ambient noise in the machine shop) makes it easy to see the action and hear people talking in the workshop.

The company also uses its Beam+ to monitor product tests during off hours. Simons or one of his colleagues can check the status of a Smart Valet test run. In one instance, Simons noticed that someone had not flipped a switch required for the machine to do a proper test. Simons drove back to the workshop to fix the problem.

When one of Simons’ business partners saw the Beam+ at the workshop, he brought it back with him to Taiwan (which meant Simons acquired another Beam+ for the Mountain View workshop). Now, Simons says, he can attend meetings and check in with colleagues at Intersource Partners in Taichung, Taiwan, a supply chain management company that performs quality control inspections on final products before they ship.

And just like the Smart Valet product demos, Intersource Partners can invite customers to use the Beam+ in Taichung to tour the office, attend product quality inspections and watch the results and ask questions. “I will go to a customer site, jump on the Beam in Taiwan and run it through the facility and show him what we are doing there and what the plant looks like. And along the way, have meetings with different officers in the company,” Simons says.

He can also guide the Beam+ from his office in Mountain View, with a customer along for the ride. “To me, the groundbreaking aspect of having the Beam in Taiwan is the mobility,” Simons says. “It allows something like a water cooler conversation to happen. Being able to run it around, and interact with anybody on-site is something I didn’t expect in terms of the results,” he adds.

At Bayer, a Chance to Be Present and Counted

John O’Mullane serves as head of innovation, research and development at Bayer Consumer Health, a Division of Bayer, the global life sciences company. From his office in Basel, Switzerland, he communicates with a diverse array of colleagues – from research scientists to customer experience designers – all over the world. As he began this summer to use BeamPro to visit with working groups in Memphis, Tennessee, he says he quickly saw its potential to bring people closer together even when they were separated by oceans or continents.

O’Mullane has a BeamPro at his company and a Beam+ at home. He says the difference between the Beam telepresence devices and other communications media is the difference between a passive bystander and an active participant. With the Beam, a user can feel more present by controlling his frame of attention. He can turn to react or see something that interests him. He can focus on what he thinks is important, rather than relying on a static camera or a conversation partner’s video camera position.

“Even in a video teleconference, you are kind of stuck in a room,” O’Mullane says. “If you were using your iPad and FaceTime, it’s not the same experience. You are kind of being led, and being taken someplace else. With the Beam, there is a kind of presence to it. We prefer to use it rather than any other way of communicating because it is so dynamic,” he adds.

So far, Bayer has just begun to use its BeamPro in meetings in Memphis. It is doing pilot tests with colleagues at a facility in China. But O’Mullane sees more possibilities than meetings and drive-by interactions. For example, he imagines attending brainstorming sessions at a consumer engagement center in Memphis, a facility with lots of open spaces and clusters of people working in small groups. There, a user could participate in a group discussion via the BeamPro and move from group to group through the facility.

Factory and lab tours are another potential application. O’Mullane foresees testing a BeamPro in a clean environment where people have to wear gowns and glasses. Bayer could also use the device to accompany a laboratory site auditor, or to visit with researchers to learn more about their latest work. Or to consult with colleagues in China or other locations that can benefit from expertise from headquarters or another site; to share knowledge via BeamPro rather than traveling would save both time and expense.

Shortly after Bayer gained experience with the BeamPro in its offices, O’Mullane bought a Beam+ for his home in New Jersey, where his wife spends time in addition to being in Basel. The experience of spending time together with her via the Beam+ has made a difference.

“You want that time together and on the telephone is tough. You miss all the body language,” he says. The great thing about the Beam+, he says, is “I can walk around the kitchen as my wife prepares dinner. And she can carry on preparing dinner. And when she is answering a letter, or opening the mail, or doing the dishwasher, I am wandering around the kitchen as well,” he says. “She can do her stuff, just as you would if you were there. Very rarely in today’s busy world, can you just have time to sit down, and have that time together and to have it be productive, for both. It is something that is rare.”

At Evite, a Welcome from the CEO

Evite CEO Victor Cho wants to create a vibrant culture that engages employees, whether they are in the Los Angeles, Chicago or New York office. Cho says the Beam+ helps him achieve that by allowing him to spend time with groups in each location, where he can have informal conversations. “If I have a chunk of downtime, one of the first things I will roll through my head is if there is someone or something interesting I can see. Usually there’s a task I can do, or I can just roam the hall and say hi to people,” he says. “I feel more connected to the offices.”

For example, he has driven the Beam+ in the New York office to say hello to a new employee and has dropped in on a Thanksgiving potluck lunch at headquarters when he was working from home one day.

And he has encouraged his colleagues to use the Beam+ to connect with each other, especially for one-on-one or small group conversations. “It’s a great employee motivator. People think it’s cool,” Cho says. “And it puts us at the progressive edge of how we think about employee interaction and the use of technology,” he adds.

Cho says his company has video conferencing capability, but he prefers to use the Beam+ when he can. “The amazing thing is that it’s just like I’m there in person. It’s more personal. The conversation is more natural. I can pop in and we can brainstorm. It lends itself to a more casual discussion,” he says.
He figures the Beam+ paid for itself when it saved him one cross-country trip to visit a remote office. And then there’s the Beam+ he has at home.

“When it came in the first week, I had two or three nights with my family. Those hours are priceless,” Cho says. “As long as I am doing any business travel, I will be getting the next version. It is that transformative.”

Working (and Thinking) Outside the Box

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We have all heard the phrase, “stroke of genius.” Hearing this phrase likely conjures up images of people like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, forward thinkers and innovators who have impacted the future as we know it.  In today’s world, we need more of these types of thinkers, but what sets them apart?  The answer is a willingness to look at the future to find solutions for today. The answer is imagination.

Traditionally, the workplace has been a think tank for grand ideas that keep companies in business. But what if the workplace of the future is different than our parents’ generations, and even our own? The office will not be defined by history’s concepts of what it should be; it no longer has to be defined or confined by cubicles or walls. Today, the possibility of imagination needs to be broadened outside the meeting room.

Re-imagine “Outside the Box”

“Thinking outside the box” is a phrase most employees have heard. Let’s consider that phrase in the literal sense – removing the physical barriers of the “office box.” It’s time to recognize where ideas happen and where imagination flourishes. It is true that ideas can happen within the workplace, but it is equally true that they can happen anywhere one finds inspiration. According to research from Forrester, “It’s imperative that business leaders initiate programs that keep their workforce productive and connected while mobile and remote.” People may need to work from places of inspiration such as their family home or on the road.

The reasoning is two-fold: more workers choose to work remotely everyday, and flexible work arrangements offer workers freedom from the confines of an office to think more creatively. Often, the confines of a stagnate work environment can fail to ignite innovative thinking due to lack of outside stimulation. In addition, workers can feel hampered by unspoken rules of etiquette and procedure within the formality of a rigid office space. A corporate hierarchy inhibits free flowing ideas and imagination by limiting workers from approaching superiors they might have approached in an otherwise less formal environment – a reason many companies have internal networking events. Thus, organizations are presented a challenge where internal office employees may feel isolated or under-inspired, while employees outside the office have ideas that require discussion among colleagues. To help solve this challenge, today’s workers need to be empowered with the tools that break down barriers of remoteness and access to help eliminate the limitations offices can create: both internally and externally. If we want to inspire workers to think outside of the box, then we need to do just that – get them outside the box – to comfortable environments where ideas flourish, but let them be freely available to the office when an idea needs to come to fruition.

The End of Office Silos

Technology has long been heralded as the future of business, from the advent of the printing press to the breakthrough of the modern computer, it has enhanced the business world. As technology progresses so do workers, but exactly how does technology un-confine? It creates and strengthens the opportunities for collaboration and people are beginning to take advantage.

When asked what their primary concern was for their first job, 57 percent of younger Americans wanted to do something enjoyable or make a difference in society. For example, a group of Millennials are working remotely while traveling around the globe on a program called Remote Year. The younger generation is embracing flexibility because they will need to always be on the hunt for new work during their careers; and for those who are successful at finding new work, their ability to learn new roles and organizations helps make them more nimble and competitive to an industry’s changing demands. According to the U.S Department of Labor, the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 years. Younger workers are spending less time at the same job and contracting more, leading to fluidity within the work market.  Technology platforms make it easy for employees and contractors to work from around the globe, enabling workers to literally “work outside the box”.

Look at any modern day office and you will see people connected by emails, phones, online chat groups, and more.  Collaboration is happening all around us in real time.  However, technology is also creating limitations. Emails go unanswered or unseen. Phone messages don’t always get relayed, and people connect to the physical office space by wires and walls. Workers need to be certain their message was received, so smartphones, Google Hangouts, and video conferencing has been added to the mix. Telepresence technology has advanced to the point where workers may connect their computer to a telepresence device in the workplace from anywhere around the globe – giving them a physical presence within the office space and “being there” for colleagues. Suitable Technologies and our Beam telepresence devices focus on allowing companies to tear down the silos that previously existed between remote workers and their offices – encouraging more collaboration and brainstorming, more efficiency and more real-time interaction and synergy between colleagues. The abundance of these kinds of technologies gives workers the flexibility they need to work and think beyond the limitations of generations past and let imagination flourish.

Allowing Imagination to Thrive

It is clear that as imagination grows, and technology is embraced, the future office will look vastly different. Research has long shown that geographical diversification within the workforce is happening, and businesses that want to succeed need to support the future workplace now.  Employees are demanding more flexibility as schedules become increasingly more hectic and work days get longer; they want the quiet comfort of home on some days, the intense collaboration of the office on others, or the inspirational experience of working while traveling abroad. If organizations want to propel imagination and inspiration forward, then they need to look at technology to solve these challenges, so everyone may enjoy a future where workplace imagination leads to inspiration and true genius thrives.

Contributor: Erin Rapacki
Director of Marketing, Suitable Technologies, Inc.

The Pillars of Video Collaboration

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Companies have expanded globally and wish to work with the best of the best: have the best teammates, use the best vendors, and hire the best consultants. However, business operations take place in many different, often unique, facilities and keeping those locations connected is a constant challenge. Nearly every company has a team member who is vital to the success of the organization that is not co-located at headquarters or a central hub of activity. In fact, Forrester predicts that 43% of the US the workforce will be working remotely by 2016. To resolve this challenge, companies have invested heavily in promoting healthy communication between their remote and local teams with various technologies: the telephone, file sharing and project management software, and video communication when travel is not an option.

When purchasing a video communication tool people must consider its purpose: do they want it to be used in all collaboration spaces? Is video needed for colleagues who work from home? Will conferencing be used for formal meetings between multiple facilities? Companies have many options to select from, but they must consider how it benefits their unique organizational challenges. As a guide, here are the technologies we recommend for various methods of remote collaboration:

1. Video Calling (e.g. Google Hangouts and Skype) offers an informal ubiquitous video service over a low bandwidth connection. These services are best used for casual desk-to-desk calling or for distributed teams who work without a central office.

2. Video Conferencing (e.g. high–definition room systems) offers groups an ability to be face-to-face for a formal meeting. The technology is optimized for scheduled, multi-point, and room-to-room conferencing.

3. Remote Presence (e.g. a self contained, remote controlled, video conferencing device on wheels) is a new tool for natural collaboration in all workspaces outside the meeting room or office: labs, white board areas, factory floors, shops, cafeterias, manufacturing plants, showcases, tech centers, and more. Remote presence devices implement their video conferencing software differently in order to optimize for low latency, over a relatively low bandwidth internet connection, for proactive driving control. They come complete with cameras, a microphone array, speakers, a battery, and digital display.

Workplace interactions range from the very formal to the informal, from quick chats between colleagues to large presentations. Remote presence it is a distinct “third pillar” that adds to a company’s strategy where experts may be invited to join in team collaboration anywhere the action is happening. Removing geography as a barrier to recruiting helps teams hire the right people; especially small companies like startups who require the best. Notably, as referenced in a 2014 study from CB Insights 46% of the startups listed failed due to not having the right management team. In addition, remote presence is capable of connecting users to their teams throughout multiple operating locations a day, so those who find it most valuable are remote employees, consultants, clients, vendors, operations managers, and business travelers who wish to connect back to their headquarters while away.

When successful team dynamics require spontaneity, collaboration, or attendance at an event – only remote presence enables people to come together without boundaries. Video collaboration is required among global teams everywhere, including meetings between desks and conference rooms, but now this “third pillar” makes it easier for a person’s presence to be made available in all workspaces; thereby creating a healthy, transparent, and positive collaboration environment that mobilizes the workforce and provides a way for teams to have equal access to everyone.

Contributor: Erin Rapacki
Director of Marketing, Suitable Technologies, Inc.

BeamPro at Universities

Universities, more specifically; university professors, administrators, and students are boldly going where they haven’t gone before. Beam Smart Presence Systems are arriving on campus, and universities are discovering how Beam connects students and professors in new ways for sharing knowledge, attending class, and creating a great customer experience for students.

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(Photo: M State)

Beam fulfills the need for shared awareness between people, places, and things by combining mobility and video conferencing to for an immersive communication experience anywhere and everywhere conversations take place. Beam enables people to be there, and interact naturally by seeing and being seen, hearing and being heard, with the freedom to move about from anywhere in the world.

At Cornell Tech, Professor (and self proclaimed Beam evangelist) Serge Belongie uses the Beam at least six times per week while guest lecturers, teaching assistants and professors have beamed in from California, Ithaca, Israel and more. In addition, a Professor Deborah Estrin was able to watch presentations, congratulate graduating students and mingle in the crowd of guests – all while being 5,000+ miles away in Israel.

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Beam works well teaching in classrooms because it embodies the remote individual, or pilot, with his or her authentic presence, and immerses the individual using reliable low-latency audio and video for natural communication, interaction, and control. The viewing monitor is placed at eye-level, and low-latency video broadcasts in 480p in order to promote natural response times for gestures, driving, and other conversational cues. Application-specific audio makes use of six microphones, ideal for conversations up to 20 feet away, and cancels background noise; thereby making BeamPro and excellent A/V option for classrooms, events, or other noisy environments.

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Universities are using it outside the classroom as well. Dr. Peter Wielinski, chief student services officer at M State, said the college invested in the new technology primarily as a way to help meet the needs of students. With four campus locations and its online eCampus, Wielinski said, the college often faces the challenge of scheduling assistance for students at times of high demand, such as the start of a new semester.

“With a distance of 50 to 100 miles between our four campuses, the use of our Beams ensure that the most appropriate person can provide face-to-face support services anywhere on campus without delay,” Wielinski said. M State estimates the use of Beam could save the college up to $45,000 annually in travel costs for student services staff. They could also cut down on travel time and costs for administrators and others who will be able to use the technology to avoid driving for meetings and allow the college to invite guest lecturers and experts to interact with students – without any travel time or expense.

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Stanford Football Coach David Shaw beams in for a team meeting. (ESPN blog)

Often, students cannot attend a classroom in-the-flesh due to disability, sickness, or injury. University of Maryland Ph.D student Kavita Krishnaswamy has a disability and is unable to leave her home easily, she beams into academic conferences around the country and defended her PhD thesis using the device. In addition, a student involved with the LearningLab at the EMLYON Business School in Lyon, France experienced an accident while rock climbing, and managed to beam into the classroom from his hospital bed.

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More beam photos from the LearningLab at the Lyon EMLYON Business School.

Academic researcher, Mary-Anne Williams of the University of Technology, Sydney uses Beam to enhance education and communication between students for real-world applications such as research collaboration, accessibility and interaction, and conference participation. She uses Beam to connect three research labs in California, Korea, and Australia; in addition to having Steve Wozniak beam in for guest lectures.

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School beams in new teachers for their initial interviews. (See VIDEO)

The use cases are endless: beam in alumni to mentor students or attend special events, recruit high school students and athletes by beaming them onto campus, beam in guest lecturers, beam in professors who are away at a conference, beam in students who are sick or injured, share operations between multiple campuses, link academic researchers who are working on similar projects, and overall – connect people anywhere and everywhere conversations take place.

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An alumnus beams into the Stanford vs. Notre Dame football game pep rally. (Photo: Steve Toepp)

Please contact the Beam Team to learn more: info@suitabletech.com
Or, sign up for a BeamPro Test Drive right away! suitabletech.com/testdrive