The introduction of autonomous telepresence robots has led to the emergence of a new dimension to new ways of experiencing video conferencing (VC). We, at Actis, had a conversation with Marcio Macedo from the autonomous mobile robots manufacturer Ava Robotics.
The purpose of this tête-à-tête was to understand how video can impact the collaboration experience even outside the VC room while introducing new business benefits.
Here are some of the questions that were answered during this discussion:
Q: What according to you are the limitations of traditional VC rooms (which the Ava mobile VC robot addresses)?
A: Traditional VC rooms are useful but often limited to the meeting environments where they are placed. When the remote user is locked into a specific location and is not able to mingle, move around the space, or leave the conference room in case the meeting shifts to a break-out room or other meeting venues. However, with Ava, remote workers can ‘walk the halls’ and meet people in any setting, including labs, manufacturing floors or classrooms. Ava Telepresence Robot enables remote users to collaborate with anyone from anywhere across the facility. By giving remote users the complete freedom of movement, it delivers an unparalleled immersive collaboration experience.
Q: In which specific contexts or applications is the Ava system most beneficial to enterprises?
A: The Ava Telepresence Robot is an ideal solution for when there is a requirement of physical presence and freedom of movement is needed. These factors help in achieving higher levels of personal availability for collaborating across a dispersed workforce. Such workplaces include manufacturing and hospitality sectors; laboratories and customer experience centers; and remote expert applications.
Q: How does it alter the video conferencing experience for remote participants?
A: With Ava, remote users can experience remote presence with several degrees of freedom, such as moving, turning, side-stepping, looking up/down, and standing/sitting. In addition to looking forward with the help of a front-facing camera, users can also benefit from side cameras for extended peripheral visions. With these functionalities, it remains a truly immersive and freeing experience.
Q: What support infrastructure may be required to ensure that the Ava system is able to perform at optimum levels?
A: From the perspective of IT infrastructure, a good wireless LAN and a solid video conferencing infrastructure will ensure success. Ava uses standard-based video conferencing software, which is compatible with the equipment that is already deployed in your business environment.
Q: What are the key differences between remote meetings with and without the presence of VC robots?
A: In traditional VC meetings, remote users are locked inside one conference room or stuck at one position. Even if they could control the camera in the conference room, they are not able to move around and mingle with co-workers or leave the room to continue a conversation elsewhere. A remote meeting using the Ava Telepresence Robot provides the user with much more control and flexibility.
Ava also enables the user to be more personally present while delivering a more natural level of human interaction. The robot moves in all directions just like a human and the telepresence solution allows for excellent high-definition video and audio quality for crisp and clear communication. The height of the robot can also be adjusted so that the communication feels natural when sitting or standing.
Q: Which features of the Ava VC robots do you feel have the potential to be a difference maker?
The ease of use and rich customer experience offered by this unique robot makes all the difference. Another feature addition for user flexibility is its ability to navigate through office environments without any human guidance and then returning to the charging station post-session.
Q: Is there any major difference in the audio and video experience between this solution and more traditional VC systems (other than mobility)?
A: Yes. As Ava is a remote presence solution, there are audio and video capabilities that are unique to this experience. For example, the user can have a side view through the cameras for a peripheral vision, and they can immediately turn to look at the people around them by gesturing on their device (e.g. iPad). For an environment with varying background noise, Ava allows the remote user to control the volume output with great noise suppression. The end goal here is to offer a more immersive experience with more enhanced control provisions as compared to a traditional video conferencing application to the users.
This article is based on a conversation with Marcio Macedo of Ava Robotics. The views expressed here reflect his opinions.