One of our members was in Dallas, TX this week at a place called the GeekHouse. It’s a production facility for GeekBeatTV, one of the goto online shows for the best of technology.
In addition to the 1GB internet line, standing desks, and a frozen Han Solo in carbonite (original replica found in London), they sent a picture of a telepresence robot.
When in meetings, remote workers from around the world log in, take control, drive into the meeting room, and carry on conversations with the rest of the team.
This is the first time we've actually seen it live. Bonnie Cha of Re.code took one for a spin, and talked about some of the personal aspects of a telecommuting robot.
"Later, I felt like a creep rolling up to a couple of co-workers talking in the middle of the hallway. Judging by their facial expressions, I was interrupting an important discussion. Still, they stopped to have a short conversation with me. It’s a face-to-face interaction that wouldn’t have happened without Double.
Once the novelty of Double wore off, using it in meetings didn’t feel so weird. I worked from home one day, and wheeled Double over to a co-worker’s desk to chat about some news. It felt like a regular video call."
These are pricey - clocking in at 2500 in US Dollars plus the cost of an iPad, but that price should fall over time. Still, if its face-time you're looking for, it's hard to find something cooler.
If the board doesn't understand the value, and just won't allow it on the expense export, there's another option. Put a stuffed animal in the conference room with a smart phone hung on a lanyard. As long as you don't tell them which animal, you can get the same effect for the fraction of the cost.