We got something in our office last month that is a game changer. It’s a Beam Telepresence Robot that allows anyone who is authorized to take control of the robot, drive around our office, attend meetings, or pop into someone’s office for a conversation.

The use case I like best is attending meetings with the Beam. We have had a big screen in the front of our conference room with various videoconference applications on it for years. It works well but it never feels like you are sitting around the table with the rest of the group. With the Beam, you get that exact feeling. It’s the closest I’ve felt to being in the room from a remote location.

I also like being able to grab the Beam and take a quick trip around the office and check in with people while I’m away.

Here’s a video that shows four use cases. You will get a sense of it and how it works from the video.

We have the Beam+ which is really fine for our office. It’s $2000 and I amย thinking we should get another so we can have two remote people in our conference room at one time.

We haven’t yet had entrepreneurs use the Beam to pitch us, but I’m sure that will happen soon. And I think it will be a better experience than coming in over the big screen in the front of the room.

#robots and drones

Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    $2k very fair price for something so cool and that makes you an active and independent remote attendeeIf I led product there next thing on roadmap would be Nerf Gun attachments. Sooner we office-toy-weaponize these things the better.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Nick Grossman

      Totally agree. When I was shopping around for which robot to order, one that I looked at was the Kubi ( ). One of the coolest features of the Kubi is the ability to do gestures, like nodding yes, shaking no, and bowing. These little things make it feel more human.But FO SHO beam should have a hardware API

      1. awaldstein

        Great comment.What online is bad for is gestures. Great writers succeed, others suffer from comment strings honestly as impersonal.Robots with gestures–I’m in. One of the genius pieces of Star Wars actually.

        1. Nick Grossman

          yep exactly. One of the nice things about the beam is that you can move it around slightly during a meeting — turning left and right, etc. Even these little movements make you feel more human and responsive, and also help others in the room remember you’re there

          1. awaldstein

            Success is all about nuance of design for this one.Gonna have to think of a reason to visit USV and try it out–or better–is there a showroom somewhere–should be i bet?

          2. Matt A. Myers

            There’s a Beam store here in downtown Palo Alto.

          3. Chimpwithcans

            What does it do if you fall asleep in a meeting? ๐Ÿ™‚

          4. Nick Grossman

            Ha, funny. Actually the biggest problem we’ve had so far is battery life during long meetings. The robot does after 2 hours

          5. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Was that a typo – the Robot Doze

          6. Nick Grossman

            Ha I mean dies

        2. Twain Twain

          Oh, Arnold…wait ’til you see what my team’s working on wrt gestures, :*).@wmoug:disqus knows and has given us useful guidance.

          1. awaldstein

            looking forward to it.

      2. LE

        That link needs fixing (excess “)”)

        1. Nick Grossman

          fixed thanks

    3. ShanaC

      It’s cheaper than a new polycom, that’s for sure.

  2. William Mougayar

    I like it, but dummed down, isn’t it really like putting an iPad on wheels?I was recently given a virtual tour of a large office in a different country, and the remote person carried an iPad around & I talked to several people there that way, and I felt almost like being there.Are there other built-in features besides the wheels movement?

    1. Nick Grossman

      In making this purchase, I tried everything — including several on the market that are just an ipad on a stand ( or an ipad on a robot ( difference between those and the Beam is that the beam+ has 4 front-facing microphones and 1 rear-facing microphone, and two wide-angle cameras (one facing forwards and one facing down). So in a completely different category in terms of quality than any of the iPad based options.Having used a million different telepresence solutions over the years, and having tried all of the robots, my feeling is that sound and video quality are the most important things.The beam+ (the one we have; $2k) has very good sound and video. If you upgrade to the beam Pro (~$17k), you get even better sound and video, plus a larger screen (17″ vs 11″). For us, the price difference isn’t worth it. But I did demo the beam pro and the quality is amazingly good.

      1. William Mougayar

        Interesting. Thanks for the deep dive on it.

    2. panterosa,

      iPad on Roomba – maybe it could vacuum too ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. awaldstein

    Cool. I can’t resist great design.And behaviorally, I always prefer video over voice. Talk to lots of people all over and my attention is better when I’m engaged with a person not a voice alone.

    1. fredwilson

      me too

      1. LE

        Generally, I am the opposite. But it all depends on the reason for the conversation. In some cases I want to see and interpret verbal cues but in most cases I don’t need to. Ditto for phone conversations vs. email. I can and do read much into tone (or the face) but it isn’t always necessary and when it’s not necessary it’s just a distraction and can be a disadvantage. It also means you have to be on your game in case the person on the other end of the phone (or facetime) is reading you.

        1. JLM

          .I once saw a demonstration in which a very skillful subject was wired up to a lie detector machine — not your standard device but one that actually gave you a read out of certain bodily functions (pulse, breathing, hand moisture, body temp, etc.).The man who conducted the interrogation was arguably the US’s then foremost operator.In the room, was the most skillful interrogator in the biz and a “body psych” — psychiatrist who watched body movements.The questioning went on for thirty minutes — 33 questions. They were very well thought out questions.Each kept a secret scorecard with either “truthful” of “deceptive”.The interrogator and the body psych both were more accurate than the lie detector and the lie detector was pretty damn good.The subject would have been interrogated more strenuously under all three crib sheets but the body psych and the interrogator were ready to call it a day less than half way through the exercise.The subject could routinely “fool” a machine under normal conditions.The exercise was run again and again with other participants. When the body tells that the body psych had noticed became well known, subjects had a little higher success rate but when the body psych had been alerted to the fact that the subject knew this, her attention was more keenly focused and she could tell when the subject was trying too hard.It is always possible to “read” people.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. LE

            Good story.I am actually really good at this and have a hyper sensitivity that is probably standard deviations from the mean (did I say that correctly?).One of the reasons that I enjoy reality TV so much I think. I am always studying faces and to a lesser extent voices. I can easily pick up micro-expressions. Botox on the subject makes it more difficult of course. Which raises an interesting question I wonder if research has been done on how that can help or hurt someone.Just like a lie detector does I will often set a baseline response with a question. Did that just the other day with the step son actually.[All this will help me of course with getting out of trouble with the “fraud” that I am undertaking that we discussed the other day.]As far as the question of does it make sense for the other side to know your game, I could argue either side of that depending on the circumstances.One of my negotiating strategies is sometimes to play “I want what you have I really like it” as opposed to the standard (jewish I might say) “what you have is “dreck”!!! (shit) and I will only pay so much for it!!!! and I can take it or leave it who cares!!!”

  4. Mike

    I just don’t see how this is better than a huge display for presentations. Seems like looking at a 10 inch iPad would be terrible.

    1. fredwilson

      try it. i thought the same until i used it

      1. Richard

        Going the other direction, is it significantly batter than FaceTime?

        1. Nick Grossman

          yes — most importantly because of the two wide angle lenses (one ahead and one down) and the 5 microphones (4 forward 1 back)

  5. David Semeria

    They should make a stealth version so I can catch slackers in flagrante.

    1. Twain Twain

      You mean one made from the same material as Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?

      1. David Semeria

        Nah, it doesn’t need to be invisible, just quiet.I was thinking more in terms of mag lev.

        1. Twain Twain

          Fantastic, hover/levitation would be super-cool!

          1. panterosa,

            As I mentioned before – Roomba.

          2. Twain Twain

            Exactly and just the other day I read an interview with Helen Greiner, the “First Lady of Robotics”, who was on the team that invented the Roomba and is now doing the drone for AWS deliveries.Male and female inventors working together = really useful toys & tools.

          3. Joe Cardillo

            Seconded. Took goldarn long enough to happen!

          4. Twain Twain

            Here are some of the female engineers working in synch with male colleagues to invent the future for us:(1.) Helen Greiner, CEO and co-founder of CyPhy.(2.) Regina E. Dugan of Google (ex-DARPA).(3.) Fei Fei Li, Director of Stanford AI Lab.(4.) Rosalind Picard, Professor at MIT MediaLab.(5.) Rana El Kaliouby, Chief Science Officer and co-founder, Affectiva.(6.) Elizabeth Holmes, CEO and co-founder, Theranos.(7.) Ayanna Howard, CTO and co-founder, Zyrobotics.(8.) Deb Kilpatrick, CEO, Evidation Health.(9.) Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!(10.) Megan Smith, CTO of the United States.These women are some of my personal inspirations. They invent, make and ship useful, smart stuff.

          5. Joe Cardillo

            Rad. I only know about half of them, queuing up some reads now.

          6. Dave W Baldwin


          7. Dave Pinsen

            What does Megan Smith invent, in her capacity as CTO of the United States?

          8. Twain Twain

            Systems to realize the STEM potential of an entire generation.She leads a team to invent anew how to foster and sustain a passion for STEM from the earliest touch points in children’s lives and to enable their employment in STEM careers.

  6. Twain Twain

    BEAM bot is a lot sleeker than the ones that were circulating at Le Web about 4 years back.They should also be able to do voice-to-text on the fly so there are Minutes of the Meeting and it synchs with a calendar and to-do list.

  7. JimHirshfield

    “Beam me up, Scotty”That must be the inspiration for the product’s name. Seems apropos.Does it have a mobile app on the distant end or are you tied to your laptop?

  8. Mario Cantin

    Saw the video for another one similar to it a year ago. It did seem like it would be useful for an office with a flat layout.I’ll wait for the model that can walk downstairs and get me a Starbucks coffee ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Justin Fyles

    We had a Double at my last company. Was awesome to see the out of town workers (and sometimes their kids!) in-person for group meetings. Charging it was the biggest hassle though so it sat unusable a lot of the time ๐Ÿ™

  10. Marissa_NYx

    I’d love to rent or borrow one for an evening meeting in NYx next week , I can’t be there in person. I wonder if there is a service out there. It may look a little weird turning up this way but way more interesting than being on the end of a live stream. The host may even decide to make space at the table for the Beam:)

    1. Joe Cardillo

      Sounds like the Collaborative Robot Economy…someone should tell Jeremiah Owyang

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Maybe a new business line for USV portfolio co Drone Base?

  11. pointsnfigures

    At the GCUC conference in Kansas City I experienced this for the first time. It was pretty cool. I would love to know what it’s like to be on the other side of the Beam. They just had one on the television show Modern Family. It was pretty funny.

  12. Rohan

    Ah. the latest modern family episode used this well!

  13. Chimpwithcans

    The phrase ‘Corporate drone’ just took on a whole new meaning.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      Indeed, I’ve read a thing or two about corporations that are excited about using things like this to achieve 100% labor productivity. Will leave it at that=

  14. Doug Chambers

    The potential for these devices goes beyond remote meeting attendance. We integrated our app with the Double SDK to create a virtual construction superintendent that we named the “punchbot”. Here’s a quick video: just a fun hack for now, but I certainly see an application for a virtual walk-through of near-complete construction projects. Add more powerful cameras and ruggedized tires and there is the potential for more.

  15. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    @fredwilson:disqusI volunteerOn the basis that we probably don’t fit your investment thesis very well anyway so are not likely to travel to NY to pitch you – I would be happy to guinea pig volunteer and give you feedback of my experience in exchange for yours re my pitchWould also be happy for you to put results on-line (so long as it doesn’t break any solicitation laws etc – we could simply edit out confidential stuff) “A bit like shark-tank no solicitation disclaimer ” (don’t tell me you never watched it !)Serendipity is so damn hard to plan for !

    1. LE

      so are not likely to travel to NY to pitch youIf that is the case, and you already feel that you don’t fit USV investment thesis, then we have two possibilities:a) You are saying “I know I am wasting your time I am not even willing to travel to NYC” (note I am assuming you aren’t in Thailand or Australia of course). [1]b) My test of the product doesn’t even matter because this pitch is not serious anyway.I am reminded of someone the other day who I told I would introduce to a startup in NYC that I could get them an interview with. (I do this type of thing fairly frequently). I am waiting for them to follow up with me and they haven’t. Most likely they won’t. That is why they are living in shitville in a dead end situation, while at the same time lusting for what they could have “if they weren’t in shitville”.[1] An hour of Fred’s time is probably worth 2 days of someone who wants his investment’s time (or advice).

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Interesting analysis but no cigar.1) It may be that I believe Fred is likely currently more interested in evaluating what it is like to see Beam used as a pitching medium than in hearing my pitch, and is principled enough not to disadvantage me if in that hour Beam does not give me “a fair crack of the whip”.If that were the case – a) If invited I would probably show – as I agree with [1]OR2) It may be that I would love to pitch Fred for a C round (when we will be beachheading via the eastern seebaord of the US into the very large US market) but I am not ready for it – Meanhwhile he might prefer “lines not dots ” and this could be mutually beneficialOR Finally]It may be fun – so why not ?I expect there are other ors

      2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        PS Picture of “Shitville” Switzerland – Irony fully intended

        1. JLM

          .Wow! That’s even prettier than Austin except for its failure to actually be in Texas.You, my friend, are a very lucky man.Well played! I am envious.Where are the high rise buildings? I may have to come build some.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. LE

            How far are you from the bikers and the floods? Houston is in pretty bad shape unfortunately.

          2. JLM

            .Waco is a hundred miles north of ATX right on IH35. In 1951, Waco and ATX were both 100K people.Waco has Baylor, no dancing.ATX has UT, lots of dancing.I think the dancing was the difference.The entire state is flooded and raining. Raining right now in ATX. Huge Lake Travis is up over 30′ in the last month.This is the most water around Memorial Day since I’ve lived here beginning in 1979. I live in a neighborhood on a hill overlooking a creek, Shoal Creek, and the water was 30′ out of the banks which are at least 12′ high.Houston doesn’t drain. ATX drains well.Indians lived on Shoal Creek for the water. Rob’t E Lee camped there headed out to El Paso when he transferred to the cavalry. Custer camped there with his troops during Reconstruction when the Union occupied ATX.Now, my Lab, Bella, hangs out there.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. LE

            And the entire state has no personal income tax.How are the property taxes? Where I am they are approx. 3.25% per year of property value. (And the sales tax is 7% to boot….)

          4. JLM

            .Travis Cty approximately 1.5-2% for property taxes (tax valuations are well below FMV and after age 65 they are fixed for life), 8.25% sales taxes (state, cty, city, hospital, community college, etc).JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      3. Richard

        I think it’s shittsville not shitville. What percentage of people do you think pass up a gift horse and why do you they pass it up?

  16. Jess Bachman

    This is cool and the options are endless. Combine it with a beverage cart, and a roomba, maybe a portable toilet.

    1. JLM

      .You were rocking until the portable toilet — bridge too far, friend.Well played.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  17. Tom Labus

    They shoud hook up with Watson

  18. Ryan J Negri

    Authorize me, Fred. I’ll pitch you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. lisa hickey

    I had read a story in the NYTimes of a paraplegic who thought his life had lost all meaning when he became completely paralyzed. Then he found a way to connect remotely and do speeches and presentations using a device like this. It could be a game changer for people with physical disabilities—the robot moves in ways they can’t. Or fathers who want to take paternity leave but are worried about not being “present” in the office at all. Narrow use cases i know but game changing for those who need them. I like technology which allows us to be more human, even though some people will see this as the opposite.

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      You should read Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future, by John Scalzi. It is a great scifi book in which the world suffers a plague that leaves some people in a vegetative state in their bed, but they find a way to lock them to human resembling robots that they can control with their mind and have semi-normal lives.

  20. Emily Veach

    I’m looking forward to seeing this parodied on an upcoming episode of Silicon Valley.

  21. LE

    I immediately liked this and I’m searching for a reason to buy one. One I can think of right off the top is to keep tabs on the kids at home. But I don’t think my wife would go for that, she didn’t like it when I bought a simple (and much less expensive) remote webcam to do that. This would be great but I would need one per floor essentially.

  22. LE

    This is for sure a product that with a bit of imagination [1] and a lower price point [2] (and competition) [3] could greatly expand into many different areas and uses.Remote real estate and property inspection/monitoring and sales, keeping tabs on a business when you are not around, keeping a check on babysitters and kids, the list is really endless. There are several things that have to be overcome (the appearance for one isn’t very friendly and a bit weird) but none (other than price) that is a deal breaker. Considering how FPV (first person view) camera drones, which are way more complicated, have fallen in price it’s almost a given that all of this can happen it is on the dartboard.[1] Your Post the other day[2] Will depend on the patent situation. Best case is they license the technology to open up the market and not hog it all for themselves and their high price point.[3] Competition important to enlarge the market and additional marketing. I had heard of this product but had forgotten about it until your post today. Imagine if this was all over the place and being talked about and you could see it in your neighbors home or offices.

  23. Sanford Dickert

    Fred – if you want, you can come visit me in London via my two Beams I have out here. I assume your email is the same.

  24. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    You know how people message each other in trains when standing feet from each otherCan you imagine two people sitting opposite each other at their laptops while their alter-egos conspire in another room ?

  25. Matt A. Myers

    Working remotely is part of this company’s culture, too..

  26. JLM

    .Put a wig and a skirt/pants on it and you’ve got something real.Gadgeteers extraordinaire — the USV tribe.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  27. Duncan Logan

    They have a load of them in the Westfield Mall in SF as a trial. They actually work really well. When I was there, It looked like one of them was speaking to another one, which adds a whole new dimension.

  28. Robert Metcalf

    Seems like this could be an incredible product for realtors, allowing their busiest clients to virtually attend open houses. If each realtor in a brokerage had one, then you could just have one realtor visit a property and every realtor and/or client interested in that location could just tag along via robot.

  29. Andre Jacobovitz

    Wasn’t the hologram all the rage a few years ago? CNN used it during their election coverage (though it always felt weird), and of course the (creepy?) Michael Jackson hologram doing the moonwalk.If the Beam catches on, my guess is that the “hologram for offices” will be not too far behind…

  30. Felix Dashevsky

    Who said Demolition Man is not great sci fi?

  31. Dave Pinsen

    A US Army physician used a similar telepresence device years ago. I blogged about it on my old blog (which I’ve lost access to), where I noted that the science fiction writer Michael Swanwick anticipated this tech in his 1991 novel Stations of the Tide: http://thehackensack.blogsp

  32. RIRedinPA

    Meh, that’s a lot of money for Skype on wheels.

  33. Douglas Crets

    I’m sure that people had arguments about the awkwardness of feeling disembodied about being on the telephone, but I will always want to choose real in person meetings over being a face on a tablet on wheels, any day. It just seems so odd to me.