The Beam remote presence device (RPD) is produced by Suitable Technologies, a Willow Garage spin-off. The origins of Beam started with one of Willow Garage's electrical engineers, Dallas Goecker. Living in Indiana and working in Silicon Valley, they developed the first prototype, (called Texai) using spare parts from a PR2 robot and the rest was off the shelf.
The introduction of Beam is not just another me-too product but is truly top shelf. Sporting a 17" screen the Beam distinguishes itself from the competition. Its high quality experience allows users the ability to actually read facial gestures, improving user's experience compared to the 4" or 8" screen size of its competitors. The array of 6 microphones cancel echo and reduce background noise to allow for the best possible audio setting.
With Beam you'll also get four wireless radios, that allow it to be connected to multiple wireless points at the same time. A subtle feature that creates smooth handoffs between access points, significantly decreasing dropped speech and video.
While there is no tilt or pan option for cameras, you will not miss it. Two hi-def cameras give you a 170 degree wide angle horizontal and vertical field of view, mitigating the tunnel vision you often get with traditional web cams. Its sophisticated speaker system allows you to be heard in noisy environments. You also get eight hours of battery life, allowing you to get a full day's work in, without the need to seek a recharge.
The Beam by Suitable Technologies represents the important difference between telepresence robots and teleconferencing. While the latter merely provides sound and video on a stationary screen, telepresence robots create an enhanced experience amplifying the human element necessary to communication. The Beam, an excellent example of the future of telepresence technology, will certainly give users the experience of being in the office without actually having to be there.
Another huge bonus for the Beam is its delivery time. After speaking with a sales rep we found out that we could receive one of these robots within just a few days time.
With great technology comes great price. Suitable Technologies is certainly a leader in quality but for this, they had to increase the price related to their competitors. As of this writing the cost is around $16,000 excluding shipping. This is certainly a deterrent to cost-conscious buyers.