I was recently able to do a demo drive of Beam – it was an absolutely amazing experience! I got a reply from the Beam team in a day and was able to schedule a demo after a couple of pleasant emails. I was able to choose which model I wanted to drive, which was great, as I was interested in Beam Plus and not Beam Pro. Suitable Technologies provided me with all the information I could possibly need and soon I was able to drive one of their robots in their Kansas City office.
Before I could access the Beam, I had to download and install some specialized software. Although, I usually don’t like doing that, I have to admit, the process was very fast and straightforward. You even get to watch a 5 minute introductory video, explaining how to drive the robot and be safe. The program itself gives numerous options, allowing you to set your preferences, so that you can control the robot as easily, as possible. For example, you can choose the sensitivity of the mouse, as well as the top speed of the Beam and the microphone and speaker volume. What actually surprised me was that you could choose to control the robot, not only with the mouse or keyboard, but also with a gamepad. I liked that you have access to the keyboard shortcuts at any time during the conversation, allowing you to steer the robot even better. There was no lag and maneuvering around obstacles was made simple by the second camera placed on the bottom of the Beam. A definite advantage is that there’s no need to change between cameras, as both views are always on screen. This allows you to gain some sense of depth and protect both the robot and the people in its vicinity, without consciously concentrating on it.
One of the more unique features of Beam is the “Hold” option. When you disconnect from the robot, it holds your spot for 15 minutes before anyone else could drive it. This can be very valuable at an event with multiple Beams. Another great feature, although not really uncommon, is the screen share. Beam also allows you to zoom in – the quality remains very decent, but it could be better. The robot has an assisted docking option, which is always a great convenience. The charge time of Beam is about 4 hours and allows you to use the robot for up to 2 hours. Perhaps some of the greatest features are the echo cancellation and the background noise canceling. Those, along with the 4 microphones and the audio amplifier, guarantee an amazing sound quality. The robot can safely overcome bumps up to ¾ inches high.
So, to sum my experience up, here’s a simple list!
+ Great customer service
+ Easy software installation
+ You can set your preferences in the Beam software
+ You can control the robot via mouse, keyboard and gamepad
+ No lag
+ Easy maneuvering
+ Sense of depth
+ "Hold option"
+ Screen share
+ Assisted docking
+ Great audio quality
- You need to install specialised software
- When zoomed in, the video gets a bit grainy
- Short battery life (2 hours)