Every time I see someone ask the (usually rhetorical) question “why don’t we have the world full of robots that science fiction promised us?“, I’m always tempted to reply with a swing of the clue-by-four: “because anyone with any sense can see that a human worker is always going to be cheaper and more useful“.
Cheap and useful are two watchwords for companies that employ telecommuters, too. So why in hell’s name would a company of that ilk decide to invest in something that looks like a vaguely anthropomorphic floor-polisher to “to be the eyes and ears of telecommuters, workers in branch offices, and others who collaborate with people in an office when they aren’t in the office”?
If you really need that worker in the office, pay them to come in; it’ll be cheaper than ol’ QB here, and you’ll get all the real benefits of having a meatperson in the room, rather than a suite of functions that, if you really needed them, could be adequately provided by a mid-powered laptop and some audio-visual gear mounted on one of the old trolleys from the postroom that never gets used any more because everyone sends stuff in by email. Any CEO who thinks that he needs to spend thousands of dollars on “enterprise-class telepresence equipment” should probably give his IT geek a payrise and start listening to him once in a while.
I don’t know what’s more disappointing; that there could be even so much as a potential market for this tackily kitsch little technofetish, or that so many supposedly tech-savvy journalistic outlets could have written such uncritical puffpieces about it.
[ I fully blame the curmudgeonly tone of this post on having encountered the word “webinar” twice within the space of one morning. Writing this was a better option than killing puppies and kittens. ]