Suitable Technologies Shows Smart Presence Technology

Suitable Technologies was showing off its smart presence technology that combines a remote controlled robot with a video conferencing system. Just think of it as a video conferencing system on steroids and legs.

The BeamPro consists of a robotic platform that allows the system to move via remote control and a flat panel display that allows for video conferencing. The system works amazingly well, especially when you had earlier experiences with laggy video conferencing solutions.

The bottom part contains the battery and the drive train, while the display is mounted at a normal height, making the interaction more natural. The display is a 17″ LCD display with a 4:3 aspect ratio. While this is certainly not the most common display size, the 4:3 aspect ratio allows for a more natural image composition and an almost life-like head size. It all is geared to enhance the illusion that the person is actually there.

The device has been available for some time now and is aimed at the smart presence market for executives that want to participate in meetings at off site locations without traveling. This is an interesting approach, especially when we consider that the device will cost around $20,000 per unit.

The robot is remotely controlled by the person appearing on the screen and can basically move around without help from anybody at the target location for up to 8 hours. The connection requires a reasonably fast internet connection with good download and upload speed (2 Mbps). Alternatively a 4G modem is available as an option.

The company is also announcing a cheaper version, the Beam+, for a price of $2,000 later this winter. The Beam+ comes with a smaller battery (2h use time) and a smaller 10″ display, which is not of the 4:3 aspect ratio but a widescreen format which is more widely available. This version looks more like a toy with the smaller display and the lower height and the company hopes that the model will help it with gain some penetration into the consumer market.

From a first hand experience I have to say that the system worked surprisingly well during the discussion with a company representative in California during the show. There was very little lag during the discussion. The company admitted that it was running on a very good Wi-Fi network which it operated itself, but claimed that the 4G version provides comparable results.

As a general rule, as long as the internet connection is running at the required speed, the system works as promised.

From a usability perspective, the system could be used in a variety of applications and could be particularly useful in an environment that would endanger a person. In most of these cases the Beam devices may also be a very cost conscious solution compared to some specialized robots on the market today. There is no physical interaction possible with this device, but in many cases just observing the environment is already a step-up and in medical applications, the possibility of interacting with another person without direct contact may decrease the risk for the medical personnel. Overall this was a very interesting experience. – Norbert Hildebrand