The Future of Work: Telepresence and Robots

We have all seen movies where futuristic robots rove around home or the workplace. Now, that future is becoming a reality of sorts.  Only the robot may be you.

As technology allows us to communicate in faster, increasingly more mobile ways, several companies including Double Robotics are developing new, relatively inexpensive ways for employees to be "present" through a robotic surrogate.  Double's solution is essentially a pole with a set of wheels and a dock for an iPad. A person may control the iPad on wheels remotely from anywhere in the world with an app on his or her own iPad. It is remarkably simple and surprisingly cheap given the promise of the technology.

Double (and its competitors) all allow employees to effectively be at work even when they are someplace else. Such technology obviously has the potential for both positive and negative impacts on workplaces. For example, Double allows coworkers to communicate easily and to experience an office space as if they were almost actually present there even though they are in another city or country. However, such telepresence solutions have the potential to bring up some thorny issues too The increasing use of technology such as Double to conduct business may lead to violations of overtime and FMLA laws. As such, it is important for both employers and employees to be clear on the use of technology to conduct business while on leave or outside of normal work hours.