Yes, programs like Skype and FaceTime allow for video calling. This is different. Not only can the robot version of you walk and talk with real-life humans, but it can also interact with other BeamPro robots. One writer at Slate tested out the system and was pleased with the overall result. His only criticism (aside from a technical hiccup or two) is the loss of nonverbal cues. "When I’m in the office and I stop at someone’s desk to chat, I’m able to indicate when it’s time for the conversation to wrap up so I can walk away. This may involve subtle movements — turning the body slightly, or backing up half a step — that suggest an imminent departure," he writes, explaining these movements are impossible with Beam.
While it's hard to deny how tempting this technology would be for a company with many remote employees, I can safely say I'd promptly freak out upon encountering a robot in the office. Check out the promo for BeamPro below. You'll feel that familiar chill upon realizing the not-too-distant future of sci-fi movies has arrived. (Slate)