BEAM STORE, Palo Alto, California
A couple walks by the storefront, does a double take and stands transfixed staring at what looks like a computer screen on legs having a conversation on the sidewalk with some people.
Curious they wander back, listen and watch but don’t have time to participate. As they move down the street they mention to someone looking intently at the now larger crowd, “They talk to you!”.
Indeed they do, From north of NYC to Hawaii to the East Bay or Gilroy, BEAM employees are available through telepresence machines to talk to you. And lock you in the store if you begin to damage the merchandise or steal it from this remotely controlled (no employees at the store) storefront.
Time Magazine recently had this to say about the Beam Telepresence Robot:
Most days, here are no actual humans manning the Suitable Technologies store on the main drag in Palo Alto, Calif. Instead, the salespeople remotely “beam in” from places like Hawaii and New York to operate the company’s roving BeamPro robots, five-foot tall rolling devices with speakers and screens on top. One of the robots has a leaf blower attached. Another one does a routine where the “pilot” drives it across the street to buy ice cream for potential buyers.
Beam says they aren’t robots and that is evident when you are up close and personal with them but I’m using it here because telepresence isn’t sexy enough and robot is. For now.
Because Cafe Venetia, outside table in the sun, espresso macchiato and veggie quiche is a spa moment for me and finds me there often,and located one Mediterranean restaurant away from the BEAM store, I began my acquaintance with them early on. I’ve been talking to one or the other of them for a while. My first video was a Beam machine giving out candy on Halloween. I progressed from videos to Periscoping. I love the immediacy of Periscope: show the scene, get feedback and questions as you do so. And so, the comments came in as I showed a store with no on site employees: weird, creepy, how odd.
This is the value of connecting with people outside your circle. They give feedback you may not be aware of. They have a different perspective (or not as the case may be.) However actually having a conversation with someone is like being in the same space with them – maybe this is why I am so comfortable chatting with Taylor or others.
Their website defines the “experience” this way: Beam® Smart Presence™ systems combine mobility and video conferencing to deliver an immersive communication experience everywhere conversations take place.
I’ll let you check out the BEAM site to get ideas of what to do. But here’s mine. Are you listening BEAM? The immersive communication experience is what makes this work.
I call it BEAM DREAM. Every kid has a dream of meeting someone. Let’s explore the idea.
Very ill hospitalized kids have Make a Wish foundation, but what about other kids that don’t fit the criteria or in addition to Make a Wish? The BEAM DREAM is getting a hospitalized kid’s dream hero to visit through a BEAM presence. Every kid has a special someone (sports hero, favorite author, musician, rock star, actor) and the BEAM DREAM lets them meet that someone through a telepresence.
Beam donates the telepresence but starts and runs The Beam Dream Foundation and gets love from the media. I love it, what about you?
And here’s a shout out to Mike McAnally who watched me interact with Beam one day and surprised me by writing it up. I never thought I’d ask a robot (sorry, I know they aren’t) watch my bike. But I did and you can read about it here on The Currency of Ideas: The Second Most Important Garage in Palo Alto.