Are robots the future of video conferencing?

Tuesday, August 27 2013

Video conferencing technology is pretty much standard in every office. The hardware has evolved to the point where it can be integrated into smartphones and tablets, which is a far cry from the bulky cameras and microphones offices needed to install in previous years.

However, the future of video conferencing might not come in the form of portability. In fact, the technology may be headed to even an even larger platform.

Specifically, the communications platform might evolve to the point where it allows everyone to work by controlling robots.

That's not to say you'll be the only person in your office while the rest of your colleagues use their androids to handle day-to-day functions. The following is a look at how video conferencing and robots are coming together now and why the technology might not become a fixture in everyday business over the next couple of years.

Why robots are the wave of the future
The one problem with video conferencing software is that you can only communicate with your associates in one room. Even if other participants are using a smartphone or tablet, they likely won't carry you around all day. This means that you log into to an online meeting, discuss important matters and then you can't communicate with others until the next conference.

ZDNet explains that robots eliminate this issue entirely. Say that you're based in Atlanta and your office has a video conferencing robot in its Los Angeles office. You'll be able to control the machine to move around the facility and speak with random employees. This means that you won't be restricted to a meeting room as you can essentially walk around the entire office. You can even follow your conference participants back to their desks so you can follow up on what you just discussed.

The news source goes on to note that video conferencing robots help give employees a physical presence, even when they're half a world away. Because the devices are actually in the office, people need to interact with it, almost like they would with another person.

When will robots invade your office?
If you're thinking that you can start working from home and using your in-office robot to go to meetings, don't hold your breath. While some companies are testing androids and developing new models, many companies aren't exactly jumping on the bandwagon.

According to the Washington Business Journal, the price and novelty factor are the main hurdles that robots need to clear before they become common. Obviously, the technology is somewhat expensive, mostly because it's new and there isn't a high demand for it quite yet. As more manufacturers start producing robots, the price should start to drop to affordable levels for businesses.

As for the novelty factor, that'll disappear over time. Think about how weird tablets seemed at first when only one of two employees had the devices. Just a few short years after Apple introduced the iPad, it's almost weird to think about an office devoid of them. As enterprises start using robots, they'll stop being distractions and become useful resources.