Chairman Ed

Connecting people, ideas and processes

Category Archives: Use of Network Technology

Telepresence Tourist

Telepresence robot

I have become fascinated by the possibilities of telepresence robots. There are a bevy of new companies that are making these machines.

You might imagine one as a Segway scooter with an iPad on top, except in this case instead of riding the scooter you are driving it from 100 or thousand miles away over the Internet. And, the iPad projects your image, or presence, in addition to bringing you sight and sound.

Actually there are a number of configurations of these devices that range in price from about $3000-$15,000 each. You can see some examples here.

A number of years ago I had the experience while talking with someone over a Skype video connection of having them carry their portable computer around and introducing me to people and showing me the convention facility where the person was working. Some years afterward I remember visually remembering this experience and feeling a certain amount of confusion, because I knew I had never been in that place with this person. Yet, in my visual memory it felt as if I had actually been there until I recognized it was this person acting as my telepresence robot and moving through this space to show me things.

I realized from this experience that when I eventually use one of these telepresence robots I’m going to have to create a new set of mental file folders for visual experiences at a distance. And, I also realized how interesting those experiences might be.

I’ve been to Paris, but I’ve never toured the Louvre Museum. I wonder what it would be like to tour it as a telepresence tourist? Could I wander down the halls with my remotely controlled presence and stop and enjoy artworks of particular interest? How would others react to my presence? How comfortable would the museum authorities be knowing that the person controlling this device was well beyond their physical, or perhaps even legal, reach?

Are there business opportunities for telepresence tourist agencies? Could the museum itself organize a fleet of these 21st century avatars and offer special tours at times when the museum might otherwise be closed, but that would be prime time for tourist many time zones away? With a globally aging population that might have strength or agility limitations, might these folks represent a new, untapped market for the museum? People could tour from the safety of their lounge chair, yet have much to talk about with others over dinner in the evening.

So, keep your eye out for telepresence robots. They may let us expand our world in new ways.

Where do you think the opportunities will emerge? What issues and concerns can you envision?

Bursting the Beltway Bubble

My friend Harry Stevens, cited in a previous item, shared an idea that might be worth further discussion in this era of the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement. I assume this is an original idea with Harry, but I am not sure about that. I gladly give him credit, because he often had ideas that blossomed many years after he planted the seed.

The level of “legalized corruption” in our national electoral politics is becoming more and more evident, as are the distortions it causes. Jack Abramoff, the corrupt, and corrupting, lobbyist, who is promoting his new book after getting out of prison, makes crystal clear the depth and level of corruption in Congress.

What Harry proposed might just make it a little more difficult for lobbyist to lobby by removing the “lobby”. He proposed that in this day of electronic communications there is no longer a need for all of our congressmen and senators to gather in Washington DC. The Pentagon has the capability for all types of secure communications and this may be the time to put them into use so that our elected officials can stay home in their district or state. If our 435 congressional representatives and 100 senators  are at home in their districts, they are not as easy to corral in a “lobby” in Washington DC by the K Street influence peddlers.

Let me list some of the differences, both positive and negative, that this change in congressional operations might cause:

– The federal government could free up a lot of office space in Washington DC.
– Our elected officials would save money by not having to have two places of residence, one in DC and one in their district.
– They would stay closer to their constituents and have more daily contact with the concerns of the people they represent.
– If they were to be entertained by a lobbyist in their district, there would be a higher probability of their constituents being aware of this activity.
– We would not have the risk of a deliberate, or accidental, catastrophe disabling our government because all of our officials are gathered in one place .
– Congressional and Senate hearings could be spread around the country giving elected officials opportunities to see more of the whole country that their decisions impact.
– Extra efforts would have to be made for face-to-face contact in order to build the levels of communications and trust that are necessary for political bargaining.
– There would be new challenges for the media and the Washington “Bureau” of many media organizations might have fewer staff members.

So, could we burst the Beltway bubble, that isolation and sense of self-importance that can infect our leaders when they are inside the Washington Beltway? What do you think the impacts of such a change would be? Is this a way to decentralize an excess concentration of power and spread it more evenly across the country? Could we all have more access to our elected officials if they spent more time back home?

What do you think?