Telepresence Robot

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In July, Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project, became the White House’s first telerobotic visitor. Telepresence robots are popping up everywhere–doctors are sending them home with post-op patients to do check ups, and there’s even one at PopSci HQ! If you’re someone who hates going out but has a severe case of FOMO, this is the costume for you. Have a friend carry around an iPad all night and enjoy all the fun of Halloween from the comfort of your home.

Alice Wong was President Barack Obama’s first telerobotic visitor when she maneuvered her robot to meet the Commander in Chief on Monday.

This was her view:

Wong is founder of the Disability Visibility Project, an organization that aims to record the stories of people with disabilities. Wong was visiting the White House to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which Obama spoke about after they met. Her robot of choice was the BeamPro, which allows users to control its movements via their computer and have their face projected on the video monitor. According to the project’s site, Wong was the first such visitor to the White House.

Popular Science has been using telepresence robots for years. Our former editor in chief Jacob Ward wrote about using them in 2013 when he was living in California, 3,000 miles away from our New York offices.

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A robot boss can replace a physical boss in nearly any office situation. A) Editors often hide from the bot boss as they do from the physical one. B) A quiet boss can check up on the staff. C) Office drinks are difficult, but not impossible, to enjoy at a distance. D) Employees don’t always immediately show respect for the bot.

Today, Information Editor Katie Peek, Ph.D., uses the BeamPro to telecommunicate from Washington, D.C. (Sidebar: During my first staff meeting, I had to contain my considerable excitement when she wheeled into the room, and it was the first thing I told people about when they asked how my first week here was). I wonder how long it will be until telepresence robots are no longer surprising and just become another part of the workplace, even if that office is the Oval one.

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Information Editor Katie Peek meets “President” (Online Director) Carl Franzen on her BeamPro as Intern Levi Sharpe and Technology Editor Michael Nuñez wait their turns.