At a conference, when you need help, who do you ask?
At this year’s CeBIT Australia, you’d ask one of many video chat pods dotted around the conference floor like totem poles.
These are not cold-hearted robots. They’re staffed by real humans at a remote location, who seem to have a handle on exactly what was happening where and when.
I found the pods useful. When I asked for directions, the same person would appear at a pod near the destination, asking if I was getting along all right.
And they have memories. When I arrived at CeBIT Australia on day two, one of the video chat guys recognise me, and welcomed me back.
The video chat pods are the brainchild of Adam Gottlieb, the founder of start-up Worker Clicks.
The technology isn’t rocket science. The pods are connected to the internet by Wi-Fi. At some remote location there is an office with lots of screens where several operators scan for people needing help.
However Gottlieb has managed to put this system together and it worked well over the three days of the conference. He found that just six operators could easily manage 20 pods.
“This is brand-new. We’ve been working on it for over two years. We had a soft launch four weeks ago at a very small convention centre. This is the first larger rollout that we’ve had,” he said..
“I can be down here on the exhibition floor, then go up to the Pyrmont Theatre in two seconds.
As a human being, I can’t do that. If the operators were also working at the Melbourne exhibition centre, they could be assisting someone down there, then jumping back to Sydney or in the United States.
“The system is completely scalable. If you want to have hundreds and hundreds of screens operating simultaneously with operators at 5,6, 7 locations managing that at the same time, you can do that.”
Apart from conferences, he sees airports, shopping centres and any environment where people need help as venues.
He’s not releasing costings at this time but you lease the system on a per-user basis. “We will make it extremely affordable. This solution is not going to cost you hundreds and thousands of dollars to implement.”
Worker Clicks has its office at Homebush but plans to relocate shortly to the Sydney CBD.
He doesn’t believe the human help force will be replaced by a humanoid one.
“Robots don’t do it. When you walk past most of the screens in a shopping centre, are you engaged? Not really. But if you could talk to a human being who could then pass you on to someone that can give you information that is highly specialised, you engage.”
He agrees that you could have a robot help pod that asks you your name and company, and who do you want to see when you walk into an office lobby. “Everyone’s talking about AI replacing human beings. I’d like to see AI more as complementing humans.”
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