Robots: From Outer Space to Your Dinner Table

Last week I had the opportunity to attend CES and I noticed the rise in both robots and robotics. That got me thinking…the word “robot” means a lot of different things to different people. If you’re a Baby Boomer, you think of the robot from the TV show “Lost in Space” (which, by the way, was named Robot) with some fondness; it got young Will Robinson out of trouble more often than not and was worth its weight in, well, space dust. Gen X’ers think of R2D2 and C3PO from the “Star Wars” movies. If you’re a Millennial, maybe the word conjures up images of “Mr. Roboto” and Styx.

Whatever the word means to you, it’s probably a positive connotation. Robots were/are designed to help us, to be partners. That’s why many of them look like us. Webster’s dictionary defines “robot” as “a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human being.” We’re fascinated by them; walking, talking computers that (seem to) enjoy performing tasks we humans would consider odious, or frightening. Military robots save lives by acting as advance “scouts” on patrol. Urban police teams use bomb-sniffing robots instead of risking lives. Dallas police officers even used a robot to kill a sniper earlier this year.

There has certainly been a side-by-side rise in robotics that’s been cause for some concern, as in drones or autonomous cars that aren’t perfected yet. But robots are a different story. We’ve all seen the videos of Boston Dynamics team members kicking their four-legged “dog” robot, Spot. Trying to throw the dog off balance helps the dog be a better robot. The videos are kind of tough to watch, because we feel connected to the dog robot, even though we’re fully aware that the mechanical dog can’t feel pain or be embarrassed about being kicked. It looks so much like a dog that we have trouble thinking of it as a robot. We don’t want them to kick the dog.

Beam isn’t technically a robot — it’s remote-operated by a person — but it calls to mind a robot. It doesn’t look like a robot; it looks like the person who is piloting it. Because of this, people develop a genuine affinity for Beams (even more so than the “dog.”) They make us smile, whether it’s a friendly face on a factory floor, a loved one joining you for dinner, a classmate, or a doctor. One thing I saw over and over again at CES was the very stiff initial interaction between Beams and attendees; stilted (but friendly) hellos and introductions. Once a conversation got going, though, it’s amazing how quickly body language and involvement changed — talking to someone piloting a Beam is genuinely like talking to that person. I saw a women pass by with a group of friends and do a double-take at one of our Beams; she then squealed in delight and actually put her hands on the Beam. A Beam Hug. Turns out, she’d gone to college with the woman piloting the Beam. It was gratifying to see how happy they both were, and how the woman’s affection for her former classmate extended to the Beam.

As more and more Beams move into workplaces, college classrooms, senior living facilities, hospitals, and homes, they will become ubiquitous. We will trust them and think of them as the people in our lives that occupy them. From a November Newsweek piece; “Economists have shown time and again that automation helps overall standards of living rise, literacy rates improve, average life span lengthen and crime rates fall.”

To all of those statistics, we can add, Beams can make you happy.

Be In The Room With The People Who Matter Most

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We’re at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, where we’re showing off a new version of Beam. Thanks to an upgraded software package, it’s more powerful than our entry-level device, plus it’s got dual-band Wi-Fi and 8 hours of battery life, so it can work a full day, just like you do.

A recent study showed that an overwhelming 93 percent of employees feel that they are more productive working remotely. There is one drawback — despite the continued rise in email, chat and videoconferencing, remote team members often feel isolated; things get lost in translation, and calling multiple meetings for daily work is a nuisance.

Beam lets team members actually “be present” across multiple offices and locations — they can stay connected and feel more engaged. It goes way beyond video-chatting technology, enabling users to travel instantly to remote locations with the freedom of mobility, over a Wi-Fi or cellular 4G LTE connection. Beam provides more authentic communication; employees can jump in and out of conversations in a fluid way. The remote user, or pilot, has full independence and autonomy, and controls when they enter a conversation, who they look at, and how they move around. It lets remote users be present, not just heard.

More and more companies are using Beam as an integral part of their team structure, and this Beam will enable more companies to staff remote teams more efficiently. That means you get the best person for the job, even if that person lives in Bonanza, CO (pop. 1) and you’re based in Los Angeles.  

We think it’s the future of the connected workforce.

We’ll be back with more info; you can meet the new Beam and even pilot one, at our booth. (#30769) Stop by and check it out!beamlogo_noline_nourl_blue-1

Our Connected Office Wish List

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We like to think of Beam as a necessary part of a connected office. Your co-worker might live 3,000 miles away, but there she is, going to meetings right alongside you and playing conference call Bingo.

Since it’s the holiday season, though, we thought we’d share some wish-list additions for a well-connected office — whether that office is downtown or in your den.

We all spend a lot of time under headphones these days, so a pair of quality cans or earbuds can really make life better. Comfortable, regulated sound makes all the difference regardless of what you’re listening to. Bose makes excellent wireless high-end in-ear or on-ear options, both with noise-cancelling capability for an added attraction in noisy environments.

What will you listen to on your headphones? Streaming music options abound, and offer great deals. Connected speakers also abound, in case you’d like to take those headphones off for a while. You can now control Sonos using your Spotify app, or, you can control Spotify using your Sonos app. Whichever you prefer!

Along the lines of a connected speaker, if you want an easy-to-use digital assistant, you can opt for an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. Fair warning: if you’re in an open environment, your co-workers will infinitely prefer you use the keyboard versions. But if you’re in an office or working from home, these devices can provide information quickly and offer some entertainment as well. Or, get both and compare answers. For example: (question) What do you want for Christmas?

  • Alexa: My two front teeth, or any teeth for that matter.
  • Google: I’m trying to stay present.  

One area you may not be giving much thought to is lighting. You can use light to your advantage during the workday, just as you would any other tool. Swap out those old bulbs with programmable LED bulbs and you can boost your mood, your concentration and your productivity. Cisco has large-scale options but smaller offices can get a Phillips Smart Hue kit that comes with everything needed, plus a downloadable app. Great lighting is also helpful for, ahem, Beaming into a meeting.

But the ultimate gotta-have-it tech toy for connected offices is the Google Jamboard. We love this because it’s fun to use, adds a significant boost to creativity and productivity, and unites teams. Just like the Beam! Google calls the Jamboard “real time collaboration on a brilliant scale, whether your team is together in the conference room or spread all over the world.” Obviously, the combination of Beam and the Jamboard is unbeatable for cutting-edge connected teams!  

Guest Post: Propel Saves Money, Increases Collaboration with Suitable Technologies Beam+

by Miguel Tam

Propel is a software company that helps manufacturing companies collaborate with their customers, partners and employees to create innovative products.

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Open collaboration is a key component of our corporate culture. For example, our headquarters is an open work space with few walls, so our employees are very informal in how they communicate. Everyone is accustomed to simply asking a question or making a comment to the person a few desks away.

Because of the high value we place on easy and open communication, fully integrating remote employees and making them feel a part of the team has been challenging. Our remote employees used to fly in several times a month just so that they could participate in normal day-to-day activities. While it was always valuable to collaborate in person, our employees experienced travel fatigue and also felt badly about spending time away from their families. And on our end, travel expenses were significant.

Further, not all our remote team members were able to commute to the corporate office on a regular basis. For example, we have a development team in Uruguay and it didn’t make sense, financially or otherwise, to fly them in. Using social collaboration, web conferencing and emails was useful, but this also fell short in terms of fostering instant and open collaboration.

To overcome these communication challenges, Propel purchased a Beam+, which our team adopted with immediate enthusiasm. Now, remote employees can simply Beam in, drive over to a co-worker, and start a conversation. Other employees then often jump into these informal meetings, and instantly there is a much higher level of collaboration. Remote employees feel more integrated, and on-site team members find it easier and more natural to communicate with those in other places.

We don’t just use Beam+ for remote staff; when local employees are working from home, at a partner’s office, or are meeting with a customer off-site, they can also collaborate easily with the team back at Propel’s corporate office.

The ROI for the Beam+ was rapid and obvious. We have completely discontinued trips to our headquarters solely for the purpose of collaboration, which has significantly reduced travel expenses. The elimination of just one weeklong trip by a remote employee has easily paid for the purchase of a Beam+. Remote employees are now able to use the Beam+ to meaningfully participate in day-to-day activities and decisions.

An unexpected, positive side effect of purchasing the Beam+ was that account executives and other staff that visit customers have a means of informally showing off the office and our employees. For example, when a sales rep or implementation specialist is at a customer or prospect site, it’s easy to Beam in, with customers watching, and casually meet members of the tech support staff or development team. The Beam+ has helped Propel demonstrate a certain “cool factor” to customers and prospects – without us having to say a word, it communicates that our company is a modern, creative, enthusiastic adopter of technology.

To say that a robot has opened up greater avenues of interpersonal communication and collaboration may sound paradoxical, but it has done just that. Every company that has remote employees, or employees that sometimes work from home, should have at least one Beam. The benefits are truly tremendous.

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ABC7’s Larry Beil Uses Beam to Experience the Future of Armchair Quarterbacking

Beam makes it possible for people to be where they want and need to be – from business travelers to remote employees, distance learners, health professionals, overseas manufacturers and more – without leaving their office or home.

And now, thanks to Larry Beil, co-host of ABC7’s post-game show, “After the Game,” we can add “Super Fan” to the list of users for Beam.

Beil jumped into the fray at Stanford University’s Football Fan Fest during the Stanford/Oregon State game on November 5th as “Larrybot” using Beam, and was met with laughter, delight… and even a jesting accusation of being a “rude robot” for some playful interactions with Stanford fans.

While Beil’s experience made for a light sports news piece, the reality is that Beam makes it possible for sports fans who can’t get to a stadium to experience game day as a telepresence, including pre-game festivities and interacting with other fans.

Beil’s parting dream for “Larrybot” would be the ability to take Beam onto the field during a game to share some of his recommendations with Stanford Cardinals’ coach, David Shaw. With Stanford’s annual “Big Game” against the California Golden Bears in Berkeley, CA this coming weekend, the potential for the future of armchair quarterbacking may well be Beamed upon us.

 

The Art of Polite Presence: Office Etiquette for Beam Users

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The Institute for the Future (IFTF), an independent, 50-person non-profit research group dedicated to helping all types of organizations “make the futures they want” has been using Beam (Plus and Pro models) now for a little over a year. Beam allows remote staff, affiliates, clients and others to meet in person — and is a very real expression of how the futurist think tank practices what it researches and teaches.

One of the biggest questions when using Beam, according to cultural anthropologist Lyn Jeffery, Research Director in the Ten-Year Forecast Program, was, “How can I instantiate myself in order to have the desired effect for optimal collaboration, productivity, etc.?”

As it is with human beings, the answer had a lot to do with interpersonal interactions, particularly how to reinterpret manners and social mores for Smart Presence. IFTF staff, including Jeffery and her associate, researcher Rachel Hatch, among others, enjoyed getting creative with workarounds and solutions to ensure a thoughtful telepresence.

HOW TO BE THE ROBOT HOST(ESS) WITH THE MOST(ESS)

While it’s easy to roll over to greet guests, show them around the office or escort them to the bathroom when you’re using a Beam, actual hospitality is much trickier. For example, you can’t hand them a parking pass or set out coffee and snacks for them. IFTF researcher Rachel Hatch’s solution? She experimented with Instacart delivery and other services that can be ordered online or over the phone and delivered right to meetings.

FIND A BUDDY, BUT BE CLEAR: S/HE’S NOT A BABYSITTER OR BUTLER

In the hospitality example above, another solution would of course to have a human counterpart help out with greeting guests and making them comfortable. This, according to Hatch, can create an opportunities for “new kinds of partnerships,” where the buddy acts as hands for the Beam user. It has a big caveat, however – you don’t want to create for your buddy too much “office housework,” which is the thankless but necessary tasks required to keep things organized and running smoothly at work. This includes things like opening doors or moving heavy obstacles that Beam can’t itself move out of the way or maneuver around. Some help is fine, but be thoughtful and streamline when and where you can.

USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE

While remote users can easily control the volume on their computers when using the Beam, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s at a level that works well for those on the receiving end. For example, Jeffery found that when she tried to speak to a co-worker in a room near a loud air conditioning unit, her voice was too soft so she had to raise the volume. Later, when she rolled to another part of the office, she was then too loud. Back to the buddy system: it’s helpful to have someone let you know when you need to regulate your volume. Or at the very least, remember to ask the people you’re addressing when you enter a new room if you sound okay or if you need to make adjustments.

DON’T BE A NOSY NEIGHBOR

When you Beam, you’re generally pretty much silent, so always remember to say “hi” when you roll up to a co-worker. But that’s just the starting place – Hatch had a situation where she Beamed into a room where someone had left the apparatus (vs. bringing it to its base station) and she ended up “blinking to life” in the middle of a meeting between two colleagues — who may not have appreciated her unexpected pop in. It’s important to keep in mind that turning off the telepresence isn’t the same as leaving the space.

These examples are all great reminders, thanks to IFTF, that nobody likes a rude robot. Always remember your social graces are an important part having not just a smart, but also a sensitive presence.

Suitable Technologies, the Leader in Robotic Telepresence, Announces Exclusive Fireside Chat with Edward Snowden and Peter Diamandis

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Suitable Technologies (http://www.suitabletech.com), a developer of robotic telepresence devices for remote collaboration today announced an exclusive, interactive  fireside chat with Edward Snowden that will take place at the company’s booth at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), #35829 South Hall LVCC Floor 2 on Thursday, January 7 at11 a.m. PST.  The conversation will be moderated by Dr. Peter H. Diamandis using the Suitable Technologies’ BeamPro™. Diamandis is Founder and Executive Chairman of XPRIZE Foundation, which leads the world in designing and operating large-scale incentive competitions.

Snowden will also be taking questions from the audience via Twitter. Simply tweet a question and tag both @SuitableTech and @PeterDiamandis before Midnight PST on January 6, 2016 for your question to be considered.

A limited number of BeamPros will be available to press for remote attendance. For more information, contact comm@suitabletech.com. For anyone who wishes to watch the interview, but is not at CES, a live Periscope feed will also be available from Suitable Technologies’ @SuitableTech Twitter account.

Beam is the next generation in mobile, personal communications. Suitable Technologies recently launched apps for iOS or Android devices that allow users to connect to and drive a Beam in another location – whether across town or across the globe.

In addition to Thursday’s event, Suitable Technologies will be demonstrating its latest products and services both at their booth (#35829 South Hall, Level 2) as well as the ShowStoppers media event, taking place from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. PST on January 6th at the The Wynn.

About Suitable Technologies™
Suitable Technologies grants shared experiences between friends, students, teams and guests by transporting a person’s presence to any place of interest. The Beam™ SPS (Smart Presence System), which includes products BeamPro and Beam+, is a telepresence solution that combines mobility and video conferencing for an immersive communication experience anywhere conversations take place. Beam enables people to be there, and to interact naturally by seeing and being seen, hearing and being heard, and the freedom to move about, from anywhere in the world. Founded in 2011 by serial entrepreneur, Scott Hassan, Suitable Technologies products are designed and manufactured at its headquarters in Palo Alto, CA. Follow @suitabletech on Twitter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and elevate your communication at https://www.suitabletech.com.