Video robots that might be the future

 |  By: Steve Johnson In: Trends

There’s been plenty of buzz about this year’s CES show in Las Vegas. We won’t try to summarise all the gadgets there – there’s no shortage of reviews online you can immerse yourself in. But one item did get our particular attention.

Video robots are here, it seems. A company called Awabot is presenting what it thinks is the future of video conferencing, with potential implications for marketing, sales, industry, retail, events and healthcare.

At one level it’s just a webcam with display screen, on wheels. But on another level it’s a one-to-one communication tool that moves with your prospect as they walk around your office or retail store.

The reviewer at CES was impressed, saying he “carried on a great conversation with a product specialist sitting at her desk in New York, and likely spent far more time learning about the product over the impromptu videoconference than I might have if I were simply talking with a person in the booth.” That’s no mean achievement, given the setting of the CES – surely the most noisily distracting event in the calendar.

In science fiction movies these things are usually in the shape of robots, with a cute face and mechanical arms. But the Awabot version is stripped right down to the essentials. It’s a small screen on gently curving support poles about chest height, with wheels in a neat little base like a vacuum cleaner. The unit returns to its recharge pod when not in use.

Why would you want such a thing? You might be an agency or consultancy wanting to show a client or prospect around your facilities but you’re hundreds of miles away. You can always delegate, but this maintains some of the personal touch that only a direct chat with the person at the top can give.

Is it as good as being there in person? No. But it could be better than risking losing a customer by delaying for weeks, or having your visitor stare at your face on a fixed screen.

Is this a part of the future, then? Maybe. It’s certainly more likely to happen than everybody one day buying a tin C-3PO lumbering about the place saying ‘We’re doomed’, or those creepy new prototype robots with faces just like a human's only not quite right. Shudder. This video screen on a stick with wheels has simplicity to it, which is good. It makes it feasible, today, to engage with a prospect or client wanting a tour of your offices, facilities or retail space, even if you’re somewhere else.  It certainly adds a new option for last-minute prospect meetings or MD presentations when key clients want to visit at short notice. And you can imagine B2B clients using it to give tours of their facilities. C-3PO may be doomed, but prospect discussions by hard-pressed agencies and consultancies needn't be.


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