This Silicon Valley Billionaire Wants to Give Us All Robot Bodies


"Here" is a funny word. So says Scott Hassan, the media-shy Silicon Valley billionaire who once set out to build the first fully autonomous humanoid robot, and ended up hawking what looks like a flatscreen atop two long legs with wheels. If Hassan has his way, this seemingly simple device—called a Beam—will close the loop between cyberspace and meat-space.

The Beam was designed as a video conferencing tool, allowing instant, face-to-face communication—kind of like FaceTime or Skype, except you can drive the screen on legs around the room remotely, with a keyboard. It could one day become much more. Those with disabilities can have access to a rudimentary body that allows them to go where they otherwise can't. (Edward Snowden has famously used one in his public appearances.) As Beams proliferate, you could transport yourself over to visit a family member across the country, or to tour Paris or Hong Kong for the afternoon. There has been speculation that the Beam might even eventually sprout arms, making it more like a body. Hassan won't confirm these rumours, but he won't deny them either.

In a future where we can zap ourselves over the internet into different robot bodies around the world, "here" won't just be here anymore, Hassan believes. It'll be anywhere.


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