You Robot: An Innovation in Conversations?

futurelab default header

I have been a big believer in the idea that we need to reinvent the meeting. Seth Godin wrote an interesting post about how to use the iPad to improve meeting productivity. This past weekend, I was reading about a new remote controlled video presence by Vgo Communications of Nashua, New Hampshire that they hope will revolutionize meetings by allowing a person to move a slender white robot — equipped with all the capabilities of a video conference system and the ability to move around an office, factory, hospital or any other location by remote control. This Boston Globe Video shows the device in action. It is a virtual presence for a remote person.

As someone who gets on airplanes weekly, I do think that we need a way to redefine “space” and “meetings” to make them greener, more productive, and less taxing on the traveling participants. However, I don’t think Vgo’s solution will get much traction for at least three reasons:

  1. This invention does not increase the social status of the remote person. If you are going to change the nature of conversation, you want to make sure that the person who is using it seems of higher, not lower status. To my eye, the slender, geeky robot is not cool enough to be a good substitute for me in a location.
  2. The cost is still too high. At just under $5,000 it’s too much money because people have to do a “travel saved” calculation to justify it, and customers often have a hard time believing a long term benefit.
  3. It’s not that incrementally different to Skype or other ways to conference. If I really need to see something, a person on the other end can arrange my “location” to allow me to see it.

In short, such a breakthrough innovation must at least have a clear status upgrade for the user; a strong value proposition, and a clear differentiation — which I don’t think this product in its current form has. At the same time, I hope someone does invent this type of device, because I’ll be first in line to buy it and travel less.

What do you think? Would you use it?

Related and/or recent links:

Original Post: