The mobile revolution has brought about some interesting technological advancements—including advancements in being, well, mobile. Wired has a lengthy feature article by writer Emily Dreyfuss who telecommutes from her home in Boston to Wired’s offices in San Francisco by way of a $2,499 Double Robotics drone—effectively, an iPad on a stick attached to a Segway-like gyro-stabilized two-wheel mount.
The article describes the Dreyfuss’s process of getting used to operating her robot, and her co-workers’ interactions with it. Before she started, she was skeptical of the whole idea, but she soon found herself enjoying it. But there were some elements of telecommuting that Dreyfuss hadn’t expected, such as the way she felt uncomfortable if people picked up or otherwise manipulated her robot without asking her.
While there were a number of odd (and often humorous) situations brought about by robotic glitches, the most surprising thing was the way Dreyfuss found that the robot actually did let her interact with her co-workers as if she was really present with them.
And just like that, I was a part of work in a way I’d struggled to be since I first came on at WIRED. As a typical oldest child, tyrant and benefactor to two younger brothers, I pride myself on making sure everyone feels like we’re all in this together—whether “this” is “divorce” or “publishing a magazine.” It’s hard to be that kind of leader when you’re isolated from your team completely. When you’re a voice coming out of speaker. EmBot changed that completely. Suddenly, there I was, materialized. My reporters and I started meeting face to face to discuss deadlines. Everything was so jovial and natural.
She even started feeling a little sad that her robotic self was stuck inside the WIRED offices when everyone went home at the end of the day, and fantasized about sticking a MiFi on it in order to give it a night life.
The most interesting thing to me is the way that, through all her tribulations with it, the robot actually did turn out to be more than just a toy or gimmick—it became a part of her work environment, the way she connected with her co-workers and actually got work done. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like it would be any more effective than simple videoconferencing, but on the other hand, interaction with co-workers isn’t confined to just conference rooms.
But is it worth spending $2,500 to make such a thing possible? Well, perhaps if you’re Wired and can afford it. I’m not sure it’s ever going to be a part of every office, but who knows?