New ‘Telepresence’ Machines Allow Traveling Parents or Busy Families to Stay in Touch

You may have seen this technology in movies, but now remotely controlled “telepresence” machines are available at a fraction of the cost for the general public.

The mobile machines called Beam+ look something like a small flat screen on a sleek scooter, and are marketed for traveling parents or busy family members who want to stay in touch from afar.

The telepresence machine called Beam is now available to the public for $995. The remotely controlled robot is marketed to traveling parents and busy families who want to stay in touch from afar. (Credit Suitable Technologies).

“Today’s options are static and inflexible, so we built Beam to give people a more enriching way to connect,” Scott Hassan, founder and CEO of Suitable Technologies, said.

The company showed off their fully mobile screens-on-wheels at the International Consumer Electronics Show, and started taking orders this week for their Beam+ robots — a version of the same telepresence technology available for under $1000, aimed at home users.

Hassan says a person “visiting” aging parents this way could check up on them less obtrusively than via phone, for example by walking around to look for signs they’d taken their medication rather than bluntly asking, or watching to check that they take their pills with their meal, Technology Review reports.

“For people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, I think that being able to see and hear and walk around with a familiar face is a lot better than just a phone call,” he says. “You could also just Beam in and watch Jeopardy! with your grandmother on TV.”

Some skeptics don’t see the advantage of ‘telepresence’ technology versus Skype, Facetime or other applications. Why force grandma to live with a creepy robot-like machine just so you can remotely control the angle of viewing?

But Suitable argues their technology is better than other newfangled applications because your loved ones don’t have to learn how to use Beam+ and you can pilot it from wherever you are with your computer. They emphasize the importance of control, “You’re not trapped in one location or stuck watching the world from one point of view,” boasts the Suitable Tech blog.

Beam+ can be ordered directly through the Suitable Tech Web site now, and the telepresence technology will be available via Amazon and other retailers this summer.

(H/T: Technology Review)

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