Telepresence robot gives me wicked case of the giggles

Yesterday I took a test drive of a remote-presence device called a Beam, made by Suitable Technologies. From my office in Cleveland, I controlled the robot via my laptop and made it scoot around and chat with folks at the FutureMed November 2013 tradeshow at the Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego.

The ease with which I could interact and even pester people at this event through the Beam soon reduced me to giggles, exacerbated by the fact that my uncontrolled tittering was being beamed rather loudly into a posh conference hall 2,400 miles away ... making bystanders turn their heads and watch with bewilderment and amusement.

First, my esteemed colleague Bill Wong (and a fellow editor on Machine Design's sister publication, Electronic Design) connected me with Suitable Technologies. Next, I downloaded to my laptop the software needed to control a Beam telepresence device and remotely took possession of one of the Beams (look out, people!) in the FutureMed conference hall.

Photo Gallery: How to use a telepresence robot

Then, after Emily Li, an enterprise sales associate with Suitable set me up, I rolled my Beam out of her booth and to another booth at the show — that of Neural ID. After being told a few times that I was very loud (and I'm normally admonished for speaking too softly) I turned Beam's microphone down and chatted with Neural ID's PhD Tyson Thomas and computer scientist Karl Geiger about their pattern-recognition software.

Neural ID's technology is a topic for another day (on, where we'll post details) but in short, their pattern-ID software lets scientists and doctors see patterms in unstructured data faster with several learn functions. In fact, a company we regularly cover, National Instuments, has partnered with Neural ID. "Neural ID’s CURE technology and NI LabVIEW software enable intelligent solutions for this complex challenge that offer new capabilities for solving computer-intensive and large data set problems," says Thomas in a recent case study detailing how Neural ID’s CURE technology works with NI LabVIEW to track anomalies during the testing and inspection of CT images.

FutureMed November 2013 at Hotel Del Coronado

After another lap around FutureMed, I finally bumped into Bill Wong (or at least, his telepresence on another Beam). We were shooed away from a booth for being too distracting, so steered our Beams to a courtesy table where we parked and chatted before Bill led me to a table showcasing a 3D-printing technology.

In coming days I'll share some of the technical details about the Beam itself as well as some of its applications. In the mean time, please check out Bill's detailed report about the Beam's features and potential.

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

Joe Mamma (not verified)
on Nov 6, 2013

So, to be more descriptive on this technology I would call it the "crack the whip video monitor" I see it more suitable for whimp supervisors and managers who refuse to push people in person and prefer doing it through a computer monitor.
Talk about arm chair work!!

on Nov 7, 2013

Certainly a valid point, YoMamma. ;) Interacting with folks from a distance affords the user a certain level of safety.

Joe Mamma (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2013

I think it would also give someone a great sense of satisfaction to send that thing flying across the room with baseball bat..
What do you think Elisabeth

on Nov 8, 2013

A few people I encountered seemed like the would have liked that, lol.

Randolph Garrison (not verified)
on Nov 11, 2013

This one is closer to a remote control tv station camera than a telepresence robot.

joe howard (not verified)
on Jun 26, 2014

I can picture a Dunce Hat or a crazy skirt /shirt attached to it from behind by pranksters as you roam about for giggles. "Dress up a Beam Day"

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Product Design Engineering?

Existing and emerging technologies immediately applicable to product design, as well as industry trends that promise to change engineering.


Elisabeth Eitel

Elisabeth is Senior Editor of Machine Design magazine. She has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Fenn College at Cleveland State University. Over the last decade, Elisabeth has worked as a...
Blog Archive
Connect With Us

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×