In this episode of the Collaboration Superpowers podcast, I talk about what I learned giving workshops via the Revolve Robotics Kubi, and the Suitable Technologies Beam Pro Smart Presence System. This includes ‘in the flesh’ vs ‘in the robot’, fist-bumping instead of shaking hands, and how to point.


Original transcript

Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Welcome back to another episode, everyone. Thanks for being here. Today I want to tell you a little bit about what I learned giving my robot workshops. As everybody knows, I’m a big fan of telepresence. I can’t help it. I just think the technology is so exciting. It opens up some really fun opportunities. And I personally just really like experimenting with the technology myself. So I’ve given two workshops already using the robots. The first workshop I gave was in Lebanon, and I used the Revolve Robotics, Kubi, Kendra the Kubi, to do that. The other workshop was in Palo Alto, California, and I used the suitable technologies, smart presence system, the Beam pro to do that. Okay, let’s start with Kendra, the Kubi. And very quickly, for people who don’t know what a Kubi is, it’s basically a stand that you put your iPad or Android in, and then you’re able to move it. So the person beaming in can move themselves from side to side and also up and down. Now it doesn’t sound like it would be that important, but people really underestimate the power that movement has and the presence that it gives somebody in the room. Okay, so I gave this one-hour workshop in Lebanon via the Kubi. They have the Kubi there and I beamed in. I was actually traveling at the time. So while I prefer to do workshops from the comfort of my own home because everything is more stable and I know it’ll be quiet and good Internet, but this time I didn’t have a choice. I had to be on the road and I was in Barcelona. I was sharing the apartment with a few other people. And luckily, they were gone during the time that I had to give the workshop. But otherwise, that would’ve been very difficult.

Also, I didn’t have my external monitor, so that made things a bit more difficult because I couldn’t look at the two apps at the same time because my laptop screen was just too small. And I just felt [inaudible – 02:06]. So it wasn’t my best work, but it was still an interesting experience. So there were about 40 people in the room. Everybody was seated around tables in groups of about five. And I must admit that if I was at the front of the room, then it was just difficult to hear those people that were on the other side of the room. But group discussions were fun because [inaudible – 02:26] could move me from table to table so I could listen in and participate in the small group discussions. But overall, I would say that a workshop done via the Kubi can be done. It helps if you have a co-facilitator, of course, who can help pass out worksheets or sticky notes or move you from table to table, but it is possible. The next time I do it, I will definitely take along a second monitor. I think that was really critical because you want to be able to see the people in the room as well as the materials that you’re presenting at the same time. Having that lack of vision of what’s going on in the room is definitely a detriment.

Okay, the next workshop that I gave was via the Suitable Technologies Beam Pro, which is the drivable robot. So this is the robot where you beam in and then you can drive it using your mouse or the arrow keys on your keyboard. It sounds like it would be hard, but actually, it’s shockingly easy to use. They’ve made their interface so that anybody could use it. And I really say that anybody could use this. So if you haven’t tried the robot yet, definitely get in contact with the folks at Suitable Technologies and they will let you test drive a BeamPro. Okay, for this workshop, I was in the Netherlands in my home office, and the workshop was at the suitable technology store in Palo Alto, which by the way is usually completely unmanned. They have only people there via robots in the store most of the time. Pretty cool, huh? And it’s a very nice store. Everything is very clean and lovely and beautiful with robots everywhere. Worth checking out.

And I had a very curious experience. When I first beamed in, I looked outside the window and I could see Palo Alto and I could see the California sun. And I was immediately homesick. It was so weird. I’m from California for those who don’t know. And just being there in the robot and seeing it really brought this sense of oh, I remember California. So that was an interesting experience.

But for the workshop, what we did is we set up a small room in the back of the store with chairs around a giant monitor. So as people came to the workshop, I was able to welcome them and say hello and talk to them. And then when the workshop started, we all moved over to the small room and I stood in the front next to the giant monitor. I learned a couple of interesting things as people were walking in and beaming in, actually, and that is when you’re in a robot, you can’t shake hands, of course. But what you can do is a fist pump, and that’s a much more 2D way of saying hello, and actually much more fun, I’ve got to admit. The second thing was that I said that people were beaming in. So we also had remote attendees, not only people that were there in person. And so the way that we differentiate between the remote attendees and the in-person attendees is we say the in-person attendees are in the flesh, and the others are in the robot. So that was fun to learn. So during the workshop, we have a number of group discussions, and I personally found the group discussions very engaging. It was a pretty small group, so we could all just sit in a circle and talk with each other. But whether you were there via robot or whether you were there in the flesh, it didn’t seem to matter. It was just really a good, flowing conversation between people. One thing though is that it’s good to know people’s name because you can’t really point. I mean you can but it’s a little more confusing. So if you want to ask somebody to speak, it’s good to just know their name in order to call them out. That was one thing that I learned during the workshop.

Other than that, doing the workshop via robot was not an issue at all and very engaging. I think the potential here is huge. I will absolutely do it again. All right, everyone. Thanks for listening. That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Stay tuned next week for my conversation with Stephan Dorn who is a co-founder of radical inclusion. They advise companies in the use of virtual tools and the design of virtual workspaces. I love talking with Stephan, so stay tuned for that conversation. Big thanks to Nick, the podcast monster who keeps this podcast awesome. Thanks, Nick. You can hire him to make you a star at Until next week, everyone, be powerful.


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