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Should I Attend a Conference Via a Telepresence Robot?

November 25, 2013 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Eliza Strickland / Spectrum

When I told the organizers of the FutureMed conference that I couldn't fly to San Diego, Calif., to attend their meeting early this month, I expected that to be the end of the conversation. Instead they came back with an unusual proposition: Since I couldn't be there in the flesh, would I care to attend via robot?

It seemed that the conference would be hosting five of the Beam telepresence robots from Suitable Technologies, the robotics company that absorbed most of Willow Garage this summer. All I'd need to do is complete a training session and I'd be able to wheel a robot avatar through the exhibitor hall, although the main speaker hall would be inaccessible--the crush of conference-goers coming and going from the room would make that space too dangerous for the robot and the humans nearby.

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