I, Robot

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Are you fascinated with work and the environments we work in?

How we work… and how we are going to work is a huge component of my next book, CTRL ALT DEL (which comes out in May 2013). The concept of what a work environment is, has changed dramatically in a very short while. From working the land to working in offices, from cubicles to collaborative open spaces. We’ve moved from fixed locations (because we needed to have a fixed landline telephone and computer) to laptops, smartphones, iPads and remote offices.

The evolution continues.

About three years ago, I spoke at a Consumer Electronics Association industry event. I was fortunate enough to see a prototype of a telecommuting robot being introduced. It looked like a broomstick with a webcam stuck on it. It had four wheels for mobility and while the demo was impressive, you could tell that the technology was very nascent. Imagine being able to control this robot from a distant location. You could join meetings from home, roll into someone’s office if you had an appointment and much more. It turned the notion of video conferencing and Skype-ing into a meeting on its head.

Now, watch this…

The iPad changes everything… again.

When I talk about technology, I’m always cautious about using new technology as a channel for traditional ways (look at the way the majority of newspapers would simply cut and paste their content for the Internet, instead of re-imagining the power of publishing). While you could easily dismiss the Double Robot as an iPad with video Skype mounted on a Segway, you would be missing the point. The iPad functionality removes the webcam part and suddenly (with FaceTime) this all becomes very real and human. It’s about the interaction. It’s about the ability to be far away, while being able to be extremely close and engaged in the work that needs to be done. Someone, jokingly, said to me that it won’t work because the robot doesn’t go up stairs, etc… They missed the point. You can have a handful of these on every floor or available in every major area of collaboration, and they are accessed by workers as needed. In fact, you could probably use the interface to switch floors/switch robots quicker than taking the elevator. In fact, it will take you as much time to get from an office in Los Angeles to one in Australia as it will to switch floors.

Imagine the possibilities.

The computer age has not ended, yet. We moved from hardware to software to Internet to social to mobile in practically no time. How long do you think it will be before robots (beyond the factory floor) move into the knowledge worker space? This about what this does for people with special needs. The first run of the Double Robot has already sold out. So, for under $2000 you can work anywhere in the world. It’s not a steep price. I would argue that these are practically free. Don’t believe me? How much do you think a business class ticket costs from New York to Los Angeles return?

Are you ready for the exciting possibilities?

One comment

  1. Mitch, great observation. I met the CEO of this company and played with the “robot” at TechCrunch Disrupt a few weeks ago. It was very impressive, and as you point out the use of iPads made it literally as simple to use as the “toy” robots I had as a kid, yet the functionality and practicality are real. Plus the “cost” comes way down, as you are really just paying for the gyroscopic base, and software (app). You supply your own iPad(s). An exciting look at things to come…

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