National

Dec 23, 2012 2:12 PM by Associated Press

Telepresence robots let employees 'beam' into work

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) - More employees are working remotely with computers, smartphones and video-conferencing. But those technologies are still no substitute for actually being in the office.

A growing number of tech companies are trying to address that problem with so-called telepresence robots.

These mobile video-conferencing systems are designed to give remote employees a physical presence in the workplace.

These robotic stand-ins are still a long way from going mainstream, with only a small number of organizations using them. They can be expensive, difficult to navigate or get stuck if they venture into areas with poor Internet connectivity. Non-techies might find them too strange to use regularly.

But technology watchers say these machines could one day be widely used, allowing managers to inspect overseas factories, salespeople to greet customers and students to attend school.

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