Robots let employees work remotely

December 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
In the past couple of years, we've seen music, movies, even video games move into the cloud. The next step may be putting yourself in the cloud. A Bay Area company is using robots to let you be everywhere at once.

Faith Brady's a real person. In fact, she's at home right now -- in Illinois. But she's also at the GigaOM network conference in San Francisco, while she greets customers at an office in Mountain View.

"She's working for us, but she's also working for three other companies, including, I believe, Microsoft, at the same time," Elance Vice President Ved Sinha said.

Meet the new face of virtual. They're called Anybots. You can rent one for $600 a month if you need to be two or three or four places at once.

Anybots don't have arms to use the copy machine or open doors, but that's not so much the point. The point is they're the closest thing to being there when you're miles and miles away.

"A lot of meetings happen somewhere else in the office, you know, in the break room, or in the machine shop, so being able to roll right in there and join a conversation where it's happening is important," Anybots CEO Trevor Blackwell said.

Blackwell can activate a robot in Mountain View to go check up on employees.

"You have to open the doors for them and do things for them, so essentially robots have kept chivalry alive," GigaOM Pro analyst Thomas VanderWal said.

And that chivalry could become just a part of workplace etiquette, says VanderWal, as robots become part of the workplace.

"Budgets are much tighter; they're not putting people on planes to have the physical face to face, everything is going more virtual," he said.

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