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I, Robot Journalist: Beaming Into CES 2014 From My Kitchen

January 10, 2014 | Telepresence Options

forbes_beam_CES

Story and images by Kashmir Hill / Forbes

I've never been to the technology orgy party that is the Consumer Electronics Show. Many of my Forbes colleagues are there, reporting on the latest, greatest, and creepiest gadgets in the pipeline. I decided to dip my toe in the water this year by attending in the most appropriate way possible for a trade show dedicated to futuristic technology: by telepresence robot.

Last week, I downloaded software from Suitable Technologies that allowed me to operate one of their $16,000 Beams, a motorized stand with 8 hours of battery life and a 17-inch flat screen that displays my face. It looks a lot like an iPad glued to a Segway. A two-minute video primer I had to watch before becoming the ghost in the machine explained the control system, warned me not to run over people's feet, and forbade me from getting within 5 meters of stairs. This is no Boston Dynamics Big Dog suitable for rough terrain. Once I'm inside the machine, I'm in a digital wheelchair, limited to hitting the arrow buttons to turn and advance; I can hit shift to speed up to a maximum of 2 mph. Operating it reminds me of playing BC on the Commodore 64 when I was a kid.

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