How to Attend Next Week's RoboBusiness Conference as a Robot
A Beam remote presence robot at a conference.
Photo: Suitable Technologies

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

If you were hoping to attend the RoboBusiness conference but had your travel plans disrupted by the U.S. government shutdown, here's some good news: You can attend via robot.

The government shutdown might have ended today, but some international travelers are still feeling its effects. I'm on the advisory board of RoboBusiness, a robotics conference taking place next week in Silicon Valley, and I've heard of people who wanted to come to the event, but, concerned over the shutdown, had delayed their travel arrangements, while others said they couldn't get visas.

Take Marek Sadowski, CEO of Robotics Inventions, a company based in Warsaw, Poland. Sadowski says he wasn't able to obtain his U.S. travel documents in time and was going to miss the conference.

If you are in the same situation, I have an idea for you: Attend RoboBusiness as a robot! Huh? Yes, if you're not familiar with remote presence robots, they are mobile platforms with screens and a camera that you can drive from anywhere over the Net. You see what the robot sees, and you can talk to people standing in front of it.

RoboBusiness teamed up with Suitable Technologies, a Silicon Valley robotics startup, to let people attend the conference using its Beam robot.

Suitable is charging $50 if you register before October 21; after that, the cost is $100. The company says people using the robot will be able to attend the exhibits and networking receptions (they are bringing 50 robots and will allocate them on a first come, first serve basis). Below are times when users can "Beam in":

  • Wednesday, October 23 - Reception: 6pm-8pm
  • Thursday, October 24 - Beam only during Expo (ideal for people in Europe): 8am-12pm
  • Thursday, October 24 - Expo: 12:00pm-5:30pm
  • Thursday, October 24 - Reception: 5:30pm-7:30pm
  • Friday, October 25: 8:00am-10:00am

RoboBusiness, which this year includes keynotes by Chris Urmson of Google and Paolo Pirjanian of iRobot (check out the full schedule here), is known as an unique gathering of executives, researchers, and investors who share an interest in helping the robotics industry grow and diversify. The discussions cover different market segments and technical domains. From experience, I can say that the value of the event increases when experts from different backgrounds are present to share new ideas. The hope is that, with the Beam robots available, we can still gather a diverse crowd of people from all over the world.

For one, Sadowski, of Robotics Inventions, intends to use a Beam to visit the show. Attending a robotics conference "through a robotic avatar," he says, "that sounds cool!"

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