Over at the Suitable Technologies booth here at CES we had a full-on conversation with a representative….through the body of a 5’2″ robot. While we hope this won’t be the future of human interaction, the Beam robotic device happened to work perfectly for regular conversation and offers some fabulous real life use cases. Beam takes telecommunication to a whole new level.
So, what is Beam? Beam is essentially a minimalistic-looking human-controlled robot with tough wheels and a large screen for a face. It’s packed with everything you need to really replace it as your own body (aside from arms). It’s tough enough to move chairs, and it has all the cameras and microphones you need to hear and see everything. Conveniently, it’s the height of a regular person and it’s fast enough to keep up with any real walking person (~3.4mph).
Suitable Tech designed the Beam to be fully capable of handling tasks on its own; it has a full-day battery with a charger that it can drive into and it doesn’t require any accessories like an iPad or tablet. The face is a large 17″ display, which means a face is basically human sized on-screen. It comes with two wide angle cameras which emulate the peripheral vision of real eyesight. One camera is angled forward while the other is angled downward for easy driving and navigating. There are six microphones in an array with noise reduction and echo cancellation. There’s a loud speaker on the Beam so your voice can be heard. Since Beam needs to be connected to the internet, there’s two dual-band radios for seamless connectivity.
On the user side, Beam is controlled by a mouse and keyboard with, of course, a facial camera. It can run on Windows and Mac and can be controlled in full screen.
I was actually about to walk right passed Beam on the CES show floor until a Beam robot (by use of a remote person) stopped me to ask about my camera. We chitchatted for a bit and it was amazingly impressive and surprising how seamless and life-like the conversation was. There was no delay and it wasn’t even awkward.
Of course, there’s a ton of practical uses for the Beam. What’s not quite as practical is the $16,000 price tag. But hey, it could easily pay itself off for someone who’s not as fortunate to be able to freely go out and communicate with others.
For more information check out Suitable Technologies.