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Robots and telepresence: Bandwidth-heavy tools invade the business world

December 4, 2013 | Telepresence Options

demolition_man_teleconference

Story and images by Jon Brodkin / ars technica

Sitting in front of my computer in my office on the East Coast, I am controlling a robot in Palo Alto, California.

"Push down your up arrow key and follow me," says an employee of Suitable Technologies, the maker of these Beam telepresence robots. I do what I'm told.

The 100-pound Beam is outfitted with wheels, a wide-angle camera, and 17-inch video screen, and I can control it all from an application on my desktop. My keyboard's arrow keys let me drive forward and backward and make turns, while virtual lines superimposed on the ground help me avoid hitting people and objects. Soon enough, I am chatting with Suitable founder and CEO Scott Hassan, who greets me with a fist bump and then sits down on a comfortable-looking chair in the office lounge.

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