Steve Winter, Special to wtop.com
LAS VEGAS - Who among us hasn't thought life would be greatly improved if we could be in two places at once?
Perhaps you're at a client site when you should also be attending an office meeting. Or you're a reporter covering a story in one location when news breaks at another.
Or perhaps more importantly, you're stuck at work when you really should be coaching your daughter's soccer team.
Well, thanks to a pair of innovative products - both from California - you can now virtually be in two places at one time.
Two products - Double Robotics and Beam - use a concept known as telepresence.
Double Robotics and Beam allow users to participate in meetings, tour facilities and experience a 360 degree perspective from another location, anywhere in the world.
Both products were on display at last week's CES 2014 - the annual consumer electronics show here in Las Vegas.
Available at a cost of about $2,500, Double is simply an iPad stand on wheels, mounted on a telescoping pole, with a portable docking port that was just unveiled.
Double is ideal for meetings, conferences or special events that require mobility.
The head consists of a frame that snugly holds a normal sized iPad which connects to the unit via Bluetooth. The iPad's camera and microphone provide the video and audio.
Double has already turned heads, with more than a thousand units already in place.
Hollywood has taken notice.
The December 13, 2013 episode of NCSI: Los Angeles entitled "Iron Curtain Rising" shows the projected face of Hetty Lange wheeling up to Sam and Callen to issue instructions as an integral part of the story as she tells the two detectives to "embrace the future."
Earlier, during the Season Five premier of The Good Wife, the Double traversed the halls of the Lockhart/Gardner law firm while serving as the physical manifestation of an employee working remotely.
While the Double has firmly established its presence as a major player for small businesses and early adopters, Beam was designed with a far higher-end audience in mind.
With a price tag of slightly less than $20,000, Beam is presently in use by medical facilities, engineering firms, large corporations and academia.
Created as a solution to the workplace frustrations associated with videoconferencing, Suitable Tech of Palo Alto created Beam to turn a remote employee into a virtual staffer.
But does the presence of six-foot tall colleague with wheels and a face prove to be a distraction? Not really, says Suitable's CEO Scott Hassan.
"For all the newness of the Beam, locals often forget they are dealing with a person on an Remote Presence Device, as opposed to in-person, in as little as 20 minutes. As a result, meetings via Beam lose their novelty pretty quickly and both parties just get down to work."
With such a major presence on the west coast, if you thought this product would also find its way into TV product placement, you'd be correct. The Beam has actually appeared several times as the "Shelbot" on Big Bang Theory.
See how it's possible to be two places at once.
Video by Kenny Fried
Editors Note: Longtime CES attendees Steve Winter and Kenny Fried have been contributing reports from the show. In their day jobs, they are public relations professionals with Sage Communications. During CES they have not been reporting on any of their clients' products or those of direct competitors.
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