Robo-Coach

January 29, 2015

Like most head coaches, David Shaw hates to miss team meetings. So when Stanford University's Director of Football found out an event in Hawai'i would prevent him from attending an offseason gathering of Cardinal offensive players and staff, he looked to technology for an alternative mode of attendance. But instead of connecting through a speakerphone or videoconferencing, Shaw rolled into the meeting room in the form of a Beam Pro robot.

The creation of Suitable Technologies, which is run by a Stanford alum and friend of the football program, the robot gave Shaw the opportunity to not only see, hear, and communicate with his team, but to move around and zoom in on whomever was speaking. "I've used Skype, FaceTime, and other video chat programs in the past when I couldn't attend team meetings, but using the robot was much better," says Shaw. "It felt like I was really there.

He didn't tell any of the players beforehand, and only a couple of the coaches knew. "So they were shocked when I rolled into the meeting," Shaw says. "At first, they thought someone had just stuck a television monitor onto a set of wheels as a joke, but once I started moving around and responding to what they were saying, the reaction was, 'Wow, this is so cool!'

"Everyone seemed to forget that I wasn't physically in the room," he continues. "They started talking to me like I was standing right next to them instead of sitting at a computer 2,000 miles away."

Shaw has continued to use the robot when recruits come to visit and is now sharing it with others in the athletic department. "For example, Bernard [Muir, Stanford's Director of Athletics] travels a lot," Shaw says. "If he's out of town when an emergency meeting is called on campus, he could log onto the Beam Pro from his laptop, attend the meeting, log back out, and continue his day without missing a beat."
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