The Seattle Art Museum has a high-tech solution for people who'd like to visit but can't due to location, schedule or disability: a remotely-controlled telepresence robot that lets art lovers roll around the museum from their own computer. Geekwire's Monica Guzman reported on the new system Friday — it's essentially a video chat on wheels, something occasionally found in offices but which makes a lot of sense in this situation as well. A wide-angle camera gives an idea of the space, and a speaker and microphone let the user ask questions of museum staff or listen to guides. Piloting it around is as simple as hitting the arrow keys.
Suitable Technologies makes the "Beam" bot powering the project, which is still in an early phase of development. The company and the museum are collaborating on how best to improve the device to make it more suitable for a museum environment — adding a better zoom on the camera for reading art labels, for instance. They hope to make it good enough that it can be a suitable alternative to coming in person, for someone laid up at the hospital or otherwise unable to make the trip.