Your Conference
Robot Overlord

My post earlier this week about Stanford’s CodeX program got me an invite to the conference being held there today. Since I didn’t have enough time (or money) to make an immediate flight to the Bay Area, the conference organizers were willing to “Beam” me into the conference. I have to admit, I was assuming this just meant that they had some type of WebEx or video broadcast that I would use to attend the meeting. I had no idea that I would actually be a movable video projecting, interacting “robot” meandering my way through the other attendees. When I realized this, I completely started geeking out and immediately started telling all my friends that I was now a robot at Stanford.

There’s a lot of good discussions going on in the conference, and I’ll write more about it later, but I wanted to put out a quick post on my experience controlling a device that was 1,900 miles away. I immediately thought I was Howard from Big Bang Theory controlling the Mars Rover (see… geeking out!)

The device is about 100 lbs., and about 5’3″ tall. So, I’m thinner, but shorter. It is really sturdy and very balanced. It moves around at a top speed of 2 mph, and you can control it either from your keyboard (arrow keys or game style left-hand keys), through the mouse, or if you’ve connected a game controller, you can control it through that. It’s actually really easy to move around. I’ve found my way to the back of the room, and was able to find a space and back my way against the wall.

You have two screens to “see” what’s going on. The big screen is landscape and is your main view of what’s going on. The bottom screen is more square and is pointed down so that you can see the base of the device as well as a more horizontal view of the main screen. This enables you to see someone that is standing in front of you from head to toe. It’s really a great way to feel like you are really in front of the person you’re talking.

You get sound from all around. This is probably the part that is the hardest to deal with, especially when there is a lot of room noise. Sometimes the sound is jumbled, but almost all the time I was able to hear what was being said, but you have to focus a bit more than you would if you were there in person.

Battery life on the device is a max of 8 hours. Unfortunately, mine didn’t start off with a full charge today, so I had to put it back on the charging base for about 30 minutes to an hour. Luckily, that’s long enough for me to write this post, and go grab some Thai food for lunch before beaming back to Stanford this afternoon.

My overall experience so far? This is really amazing. I can see a number of uses for this at conferences and meetings all over the world. Eventually, I’d think that conference centers would start having these set up at their facilities and charging people to use them, or allotting a number of devices to the conference presenters to allow people that cannot travel to the conference to still “be there.”

Being Interviewed by Mike Swift of MLex

I’ve been asked already how people are reacting to the device. I’d say that at first I was very reluctant to “meet” people because I wasn’t sure about the “space” I was taking, or how loud I would be, or how I would be able to hear them. Sarah Glassmeyer was gracious enough to help me walk around, and after just a few moments, people were coming up to me. David Curle said I was “creepy” but I’m hoping he was talking about the machine, and not me… I really hope that’s the case! People very quickly adapted to seeing the machine zipping around, and while it was probably still creepy, curiosity overwhelmed some and they came up and started chatting with me.  My quest for this afternoon is to attend a session, and then ask the presenters a question at the microphone. I’m very curious as to how the audience will react to the Robot Overlord coming up to speak at the mic.

I’d like to thank Erin Rapacki, Director of Marketing, and Klaudia Warren, also from for setting me up with their Beam device. And to Nicole Shanahan, CodeX Fellow and Founder/CEO at ClearAccessIP for their help in allowing me to attend the CodeX conference remotely.