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The bot could be used within corporations for employee management, but would fall short in recreating the intangible benefits that come from meeting face-to-face with clients and customers.

The product is called Beam, and it comes from Suitable Technologies, a Willow Garage spinoff. Beam is basically a roving videoconferencing system. It has a sturdy base with two wheels, which are powered by a small electric motor, and a couple of white posts that rise to support a screen with speakers and video cameras.

The idea is to have a Beam in a central office and then let remote workers drive it around via software on their PCs. This allows them to wheel into conference rooms or pop by a co-worker’s desk for a chat. “People essentially want to beam themselves somewhere,” Hassan says. “We think this allows you to actually be present somewhere where you are not.”

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Tags: meetings and conventions

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