What’s New in Robotic Technology: 5 Innovations to Help Humans Work Smarter

Earlier this month we wrote about how Beams are bringing us all together. They are also helping us all work smarter – and there’s a lot happening in the world of robotics!

To quote the author of this piece about Veo Robotics, people and robots working together can accomplish far more than either one on its own. We love that sentiment! Veo is working to give robots spacial awareness so that they can work more efficiently with people – kind of like the way a Beam navigates so smoothly without “tripping” or bumping into objects it encounters.

In an example of the way that robotics technology spills over into other fields, Chinese robot maker Dobot used the same technology they created for robot arms to build a super-steady three-axis gimbal that moves along with the user, even when the user is moving quickly. (For example, on a bike or a skateboard.) The company is also working on industrial robot arms.

Georgia Tech built an aerial robot (named Tarzan!) that can swing above fields to check on the health needs of growing crops. Tarzan can detect problems and course-correct with pesticides or fertilizer. The design of the unit – moving around in the air instead of on the ground – solves the problem of navigating muddy fields and also means that the agricultural caretaker won’t run over the very plants it’s trying to protect.

 

How about a snake robot? Kongsberg Maritime created a slithery version of Tarzan that tends to the structures on the sea bed instead of farms. The remotely-operated helper can move around in small places, inspect and even perform routine fixes.

Five Montana Tech students had roughly the same idea, but wanted to put their robot to use on other planets. They’re participating in the 2017 NASA Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center later this month. The idea is to create a robot that requires as little attention from the team on Earth as possible. Teams get more points for higher levels of automation.

We can’t wait to see what’s next…

Presenting BeamPro PTZ/PTZ+L: 2 New Beam Presence Systems for the Healthcare Industry

NEW BEAM

Beam Presence Systems, used by more than 40% of the Fortune 50 Companies, has been providing professionals with superior videoconferencing capabilities since 2011. Now, with the introduction of the BeamPro PTZ and BeamPro PTZ+L, the Healthcare Industry has two new, superior telepresence options, which combine safe mobility without boundaries and superzoom-supported videoconferencing solutions to bring together professionals, patients and their families.

Telemedicine, a powerful tool for convenient medical care that connects doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers with patients, is seeing a rapid rise in popularity. According to a recent study by Jackson Healthcare, 90% of healthcare executives surveyed reported developing or implementing a telemedicine program. And they project that the global telemedicine market will expand at a compounded annual rate of 14.3%, from $14.3 billion in 2014 to $36.2 billion by 2020.

Both new models of BeamPro speak eloquently to the power and potential of telemedicine. Featuring optimized face-to-face contact, the pan-tilt-zoom camera and eye-safe laser pointer with 3D camera-assisted tracking facilitate accurate observation, and capture and recall all details necessary to serve patients and trainees. Preset points can be used to allow a more natural way to communicate.

BeamPro PTZ and PTZ-L+ enable medical professionals to effectively collaborate with specialists, serve geographically remote patients and train out-of-town colleagues, while eliminating travel time and expenses. Further, they can also easily perform personal follow-up to address the needs of patients and colleagues. The Beam management software allows Beam owners to manage access to all devices in their organizations, ensuring optimal levels of security. In addition, encrypted point-to-point communications bypass servers to ensure data transfer is private and secure.

“While many teleconference options exist today, none are specifically designed with the freedom for the user to move around in a remote place anywhere in the world, at any time, without latency or connectivity issues,” said Bo Preising, Chief Strategy and Product Officer, Suitable Technologies. “For healthcare providers, this ability has massive implications for improving collaboration, while saving time between patient visits, as well as decreasing patient wait times. The result is better and faster clinical and financial outcomes.”

Current versions of the BeamPro and the new PTZ+L model are undergoing product evaluation with select health care providers, including UC Davis HEALTH, who is reviewing our new product. More than 25 health care providers currently use Beams in urgent care, post-acute care and other traditional care settings. The new product line will be available for purchase later this year.

For more information, please see the BeamPro PTZ+L brochure. Health care providers interested in piloting the BeamPro PTZ+L may contact sales@suitabletech.com.

 

3 Ways Telepresence Robots Are Changing the Game for Virtual Employees

Networking ImagePeople who work remotely are becoming more and more commonplace; in fact, a recent Gallup poll reported that in 2016, 43% of employed Americans worked from home at least some of the time.

And the happiest among them worked 60% to 80% from home, with only a day or two in the office.

Video conferencing has in large part made this workforce shift a reality, allowing for real-time, face-to-face communication. Still, those interactions are relatively impersonal, and for the most part, you need a scheduled meeting to make those connections happen.

So how can you have a more personal, organic working relationship with on-site colleagues when you’re a virtual employee?

Enter, the Beam Smart Presence System – a robotic avatar that gives a remote worker an actual physical presence, dramatically increasing the possibilities for collaboration, creativity and enhanced productivity.

Here are three ways that Beam boosts teamwork and camaraderie:

1) Spontaneous, informal connections happen: In any given work day, much of what gets accomplished is not done in a formal setting but instead in those casual moments where people naturally exchange ideas: walking down the hall together, chatting in the company kitchen or popping over to a coworker’s desk. Telepresence robots allow you to show up wherever and whenever you need to in a given day.

2) It’s more of a human experience: Beam allows you to literally see eye-to-eye with others; standing about human height, and with the ability to maneuver around, a person-controlled (piloted) robot provides a more immersive, face-to-face experience. This makes it much easier for your co-workers to think about you as a person, and not an abstract idea on a video screen, far, far away.

For example, Evite CEO Victor Cho uses the Beam to make meaningful connections with the people he manages. From greeting a new employee in the New York office from the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles to dropping in on a Thanksgiving potluck lunch when he was working from home one day, Cho says, “The amazing thing is that it’s just like I’m there in person. It’s more personal.”

3) No more FOMO: With the ability to go where the action is, if there’s a spur of the moment meeting or even drinks after work, your Beam can easily tag along.


And this doesn’t just apply to in-house gatherings; Beams are showing up more and more at conferences (i.e. Robotics Alley, SingularityU India Summit) and gatherings where travel is time or cost prohibitive. Now, instead of missing out, you can join your co-workers and colleagues at far flung events and be the life of the party; everyone loves interacting with Beams — and their pilots.

Thanks to telepresence robots, working remotely is no longer the same as working from a distance. For the record number of employees working from home instead of commuting every day, being a physical part of the workplace allows them to foster stronger connections, expand collaboration opportunities and strengthen bonds with co-workers.

In Case You Missed It: How Beams Are Bringing Us Together

In case you missed these articles, we wanted to share a“robot roundup” of stories that make us beam — with pride. Our goal is to enhance the quality of life for the people who use our telepresence systems by helping them make connections and extend their world in profoundly human ways.

Museums, “Moe-bot” and The Mob

Pamela Forth’s fiancé, Rob Sprong, had little mobility after a car accident left him a quadriplegic. Determined to broaden Sprong’s horizons, Forth found that the Mob Museum in Las Vegas is one of 10 national museums that uses the Beam Pro to offer virtual visits with what they affectionately call a “Moe-bot.” This CNET article explores how telepresence technology is opening the door for those with physical disabilities to enjoy a variety of cultural experiences.

“So many people treat quadriplegics like, since their body is broken, their mind should be too,” Forth said. “It doesn’t occur to them that it’s the same person.”

Using Robots for Remote Work Adds Up to a Win For Employers and Employees Alike

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Boutique accounting firm Navolio & Tallman LLP is dedicated to using technology to allow their employees more flexible work schedules and the ability to work off-site, but they also want to ensure that their remote staff stays connected. With the addition of a Beam, face-to-face meetings, training sessions and even lunch breaks are now viable, bonding experiences. This LinkedIn Pulse post shares how using a Beam to support employee engagement is part of the reason that Navolio & Tallman is included in Accounting Today’s rankings of the Best Accounting Firms to Work For.

Going to This Principal’s Office is a Pleasure, Not a Punishment

For Chicago’s Mann Elementary School students, a visit from the principal isn’t unusual – but this time, it was via Beam and included several special guests. Consulting company Accenture brought in a Beam and Microsoft Surface Hub to the public school, enabling Mann students to chat with Accenture employees from Chicago to Bangalore, India. The fifth graders also used their school-issued laptops to learn the basics of coding.

“The whole project is to get kids excited about the future of technology,” teacher librarian Kathy Rolfes told the Chicago Tribune.

Bringing the World, One Human at a Time, Closer Together

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In its Guru Series, BBC contributor, author and CEO Coach, Steve Tappin, spoke to Suitable Technologies founder Scott Hassan about the implications of using a beam for remote work. While they discussed the benefits from never having to commute again to allowing companies to bring in talent from all over the world, the theme overall was about the enhanced interpersonal experience telepresence technology affords:

“They’re really just humans talking to humans from a distance. If you use a Beam long enough you very quickly lose that emotional distance,” said Hassan.  

Denver Broncos Get a Kick Out of STEM

Denver Broncos long snapper Casey Kreiter is a science super fan. While pursuing a career in the NFL, he was also a student teacher at Iowa City Regina High School. Now that he’s an official Bronco, the organization is helping him realize his other dream: to keep teaching, regardless of where he is physically located. Using a BeamPro, Kreiter is helping his students complete a STEM project this school year.

“Some people from the organization reached out and they had already had a STEM initiative in place through the Broncos,” Kreiter told CBS2 Iowa’s Mitch Fick. “So they heard I was a science teacher and wanted to see if I was interested in doing anything. I’ve always said, ‘I love playing football, but I love teaching also.’ ”

These are a few of our favorite recent human-interest stories – check our blog and social channels in the near future for more stories about Beam bringing people together.

 

Where to Find Robots at SXSW 2017

South By Southwest® (SXSW), the eagerly anticipated, annual conference in Austin, TX is known as the place to look for the year’s most compelling emerging technologies. Dedicated to giving international professionals the chance to learn, participate and network, the focus is always on what’s next – and predictably, robotics and AI dominate this year’s offerings in the Interactive track of the conference.

With nearly 50 sessions related to and about robotics planned ranging from  from “Intelligent Future,” to the role our industry plays in Code, Design, Food, Government, Health, Film, Sports and Music – robots are, quite literally, everywhere at SXSW.

So while you might come to see everyone from former Vice President Joe Biden speak to the Wu-Tang Clan perform, you’ll stay for the compelling, cutting-edge presentations and discussions at SXSW Interactive, which co-founder and 2017 Mentor Louis Black says, “has probably been the biggest of its kind in the world since 2007.”

T  Whether you attend SXSW or not, these topics expose what’s on everyone’s mind when it comes to the role of robotics and telepresence technologies today and in the not-so-distant future. To get the latest on how humans and robots will interact and where you can expect to see them in your everyday life, the following sessions caught our eye;

Interacting With (and via) Robots:

Robots Can Restore Our Humanity

March 11, 2017 | 12:30PM – 1:30PM | Hilton Austin Downtown, 500 E. 4th Street, Salon K

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Robots and AI very well might be the catalysts that we needed to redefine work and restore our humanity. Now that technology can handle the algorithm-driven, standardized, repetitive heavy lifting, we may well have the chance to redefine work to emphasize all that we humans bring to the table that robots and AI can’t, including creativity, curiosity and emotional and social intelligence. This begs the question, then, how will employers respond to and facilitate this major transformation?

The Sound of Robots

March 15, 2017 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM | JW Marriott, 110 E. 2nd Street, Salon 6

You are already well-acquainted with the sound of robots – perhaps just this morning you asked Siri to text a friend or Alexa to give you the weather report. But there are deeper issues that need to be examined related to the rise in humans conversing with robots, including the influence of voice on perceptions of robot personality, if robots should be listening to our private conversations (or not), and even if robo-snark is appropriate in response to a person being provocative or downright rude. (Just try asking Siri if she’s intelligent…)

I Speak Robot

March 12, 2017 | 11:00AM – 12:00PM | JW Marriott, 110 E. 2nd Street, Salon 8

This session examines the question, “How important is it that we design robots to communicate emotions and intentions like humans?” To the presenters of the panel who hail from both academia and the private sector, while there is some push for human qualities in robots, there will also be some ’bot-specific characteristics (i.e., a movement, a lurch or even a new form of communication) that will then become its own new language: robot.

Democratizing the Industrial Robot

March 14, 2017 | 12:30PM – 1:30PM | JW Marriott, 110 E. 2nd Street, Salon 7

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Robots working in industrial settings is nothing new; since the 1970s, they’ve become commonplace handling repetitive tasks in well-defined, restricted ways. In the next 10 years, this will continue with one big difference: the environment will change and more and more, robots will become “cobots,” working side by side on the factory floor with human beings. This represents a huge shift, one that requires robots to work in unstructured environments, interact often with people and guarantee superior sensitivity for human safety. The possibilities are major, as are the implications of the evolution of the industrial workplace.

Redefining Presence to Transform Healthcare:

Merging Senior Care and Technology at Home

Mar 14, 2017 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM | Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez, Room 9C

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Technological advances have paved the way for older adults to age at home. As health tech innovators expand their role in the longevity marketplace, there are both opportunities and challenges, such as conflicting healthcare models that may curtail innovation and adoption. This panel of health practitioners who are also tech entrepreneurs will discuss the positive impact technology has on seniors, how it is evolving attitudes about aging and what progressive actions are needed to further the aging at home movement.

The Future of Dynamic Innovations in Healthcare

Mar 11, 2017 | 9:30AM – 10:30AM | Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez, Room 9AB

Healthcare innovators are helping doctors use technology in ways you’ve never before imagined, from making virtual house calls for simple diagnoses and treatments to automating patient engagement and allowing doctors and patients to remotely discuss pre- and post-surgical care. This session explores today’s telemedicine and also gives a glimpse at the future of remote health care.

If you can’t make it to SXSW, you can check out their live stream going on during the event or post-conference videos on their YouTube channel. While we won’t be there this year, we are thrilled to see that our industry is well represented by such a diverse array of visionaries, teachers, developers, designers, professionals and of course, a perennial favorite — this guy:

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At Suitable Technologies, we see a bright future of humans and robots working together to solve the biggest problems we face – from the future of work to education to healthcare to simply being able to have a face-to-face conversation with anyone in the world – we’ll be able to do more together.

Our Favorite Moments at Robotics Alley

We just got back from a couple days in Minneapolis, MN where we attended the sixth annual Robotics Alley Conference & Expo to get the latest on what’s happening in the world of robotics.

And it wasn’t just Suitable Technologies’ employees who attended; this year we provided a number of Beam Smart Presence Systems for the conference so that speakers, panelists and guests from far-flung places including Florida and California could present, sit in on breakout panels and walk the expo floor.

To kick off the event, Nilesh Mohan, the 2016 Robotics Alley Conference Chair and director of Supply Chain Engineering at Target, began with a splash by Beaming in to welcome the enthusiastic crowd to two days of thought-provoking presentations, panels, breakout sessions and networking events. Robotics Alley is an initiative founded by ReconRobotics and the Minnesota High Tech Association and was designed to support the development of public-private partnerships in the business, research, and development of the world’s foremost robotics and automation systems.

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“Robotics Alley loves to showcase innovative ways that robots can make your business more efficient, and so we’re delighted to welcome Beam to this year’s event to demonstrate its technology,” said Eileen Manning, Executive Producer of Robotics Alley.

With more than 500 international leaders from all areas of robotics and automation including research, design, engineering, business development, investment, law, and public policy, we enjoyed hearing leading-edge information about a variety of aspects of our industry.

Among the highlights:

The conference’s kick off keynote speech on “Automation Ethics” by Jacob Ward, former Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science and current PBS and Al Jazeera correspondent, brought forth a number of compelling questions, including, “Who do you sue when a robot car crashes?” and “What happens when voice-recognition software becomes confused by an adult suffering from dementia?” As robotics and automation becomes increasingly integrated into our everyday life, the ethical aspects become more and more prevalent – and in need of addressing.

The second day of the conference featured a fascinating keynote address by Executive R&D Imagineer Martin Buehler of Walt Disney Imagineering. For the millions of people who visit Disney Parks worldwide, there is no happier place on earth, thanks to the magic created by people like Buehler. In his speech, Buehler discussed the approaches, challenges and future of advanced robotics and how he and his colleagues use the technology to devise the fantastic attractions and bring beloved Disney characters of all shapes and sizes to life. He also made a compelling case for why we all are (or, as he argued, should be) in the robot experiences business, regardless of what industry we actually are in.

The “March of the Robots,” is always a Robotics Alley Conference & Expo highlight, where Minnesota-based middle and high school students showcase robots they have designed and built. This year two all-female groups, the Rubies and Ponytail Posse, marched to not only show-off their robots but also to “break the stereotype” and illustrate the fruits of encouraging girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  

And one more thing made the Robotics Alley Conference & Expo special — learning what the opposite of a sunbeam is:

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Thanks to the Robotics Alley Conference & Expo for another educational, informative and fun event!

 

 

How Our Own Remote Retail Clerks Are Changing “In-Store” Experiences – For Good

Beam Product Specialist Austen Trainer will tell you that he spends his time working at our Palo Alto, CA Suitable Technologies Beam Store educating people about telepresence technology: the general concept, specific uses, and technical details.

What he might not mention is that he’s actually physically more than 100 miles away from the store at his home in Davis, CA, sitting in his favorite chair, wearing a pair of comfy sweats, answering questions about Beam, with his dog at his side.

This is just one of the perks about Beaming into work, or any other remote location for that matter. In fact, we decided that having an entirely remotely operated storefront would be one of the best ways to drive home the reliability that Beam technology brings to the table. It’s been over 2 years now and the store still is a destination for many tech seeking companies visiting downtown Palo Alto.

Thanks to the positive response – the store is even a stop on some Silicon Valley tech tours – it’s now a permanent retail location fully staffed by remote workers like Austen in Davis and Kema Johnson, who Beams in from her home in Denver, CO.

The future of robots – in customer service, retail, and beyond

Like Austen, Kema appreciates being able to work remotely and also feels empowered by the innovations in the retail industry that she’s ushering in as a Product Specialist and Beam Pilot.

“If we have done our job right, you, the customer, should walk out of the store inspired, whether it’s seeing how you can spend more time with your relative who lives abroad; how you can have the ability to attend meetings that you may have not been able to; how much being able to Beam somewhere reduces your frustration and alleviates the cost of traveling… there are so many applications I have yet to think of but that always emerge as I talk to the visitors who come into the store.”

While tech-savvy sales processing is certainly part of the daily equation, having fun with customers and seeing how people react to interacting with a telepresence robot is what keeps the job interesting and unpredictable.

“People really lose their inhibitions when they think you’re a computer program,” says Austen. “The number one question I get is, ‘Wait, is that real?’, followed closely by ‘What’s to stop me from stealing you?’ or ‘What are you going to do now?’ as they cover the camera with their hand.”

Store manager Michelle Posey, who oversees the 12 Product Specialists, encourages her staff to get outside to mix and mingle with pedestrians – and on occasion, take a jaunt outside to visit nearby retailers.

“Recently we decided to venture around downtown Palo Alto on Beam and visit our neighbors at the store C.R.E.A.M. We rolled across the street, and waited in line patiently with the other patrons on a busy Saturday night, and once we got to the counter, ordered a bunch of ice cream sandwiches for our guests back at the Beam store.”

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And while all customers may not get to enjoy a “Beam ’n Cream,” what they do get at the Beam store is to experience the future of customer service robots in retail, which is now being tested in other stores.

Beaming has its benefits

As for our Product Specialists, the perks go beyond being able to work from the comfort of their own homes and delight customers with the novelty of interacting with a telepresence robot.

When Austen first started working at the Beam store, he had been living in Southern California for a couple of years and hadn’t seen his dad for most of that time. One day his father had business in the Bay Area, so he stopped by to see Austen “in person.”

“It was awesome to get a chance to use Beam to connect with my own family, and it really confirmed my faith in the product,” Austen says.

For Kema, hearing customers’ stories and helping them see how profoundly Beam can change their lives is the most gratifying part of the job.

“I sold a Beam to a family who had an elderly relative with dementia who lived in a different state from them. Their entire family is now able to eat dinner with Grandma and check in on her as much as they’d like without her having to do anything at all. It is a powerful concept to have the Pilot in complete control from their smartphone, smart tablet or computer.”

At the end of the day, the life of a Beam Product Specialist is anything but remote; it’s a powerful way to make real-world connections, both professional and personal.

 
The Beam Store is located at 425 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301, (855) 200-2326. Come visit us in person, or Beam into the store!