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  • Molly Gardner

Positive Outlook: Workplace Robotics Reflections and Predictions

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

In the persistent shadow of Covid19, the opportunity for robots in the workplace to help, connect, and protect offers a bit of brightness.



Ava's commitment to virtual healthcare in 2020 will be a meaningful, memorable milestone.


Connecting people, especially loved ones, through accessible, mobile robotics technology and facilitating communication for healthcare providers is something about which we feel both honor and pride. The fight against loneliness and for better telehealth solutions will continue in 2021 and beyond. We are excited to continue to serve customers and partners within healthcare, especially long term care communities, rehabilitation, and other facilities.


Healthcare applications also highlighted our growing partnership with Cisco. The long term care community application Ava + Webex video was featured as a healthcare joint case study in premier Cisco events, Cisco Live and WebexOne. We look forward to expanding the Cisco Webex collaboration platform in 2021.


Further into 2020, broader-scope discussions and trends around "The Future of Work" took the stage.


Changes in the workplace weren't going to be limited to a temporary emergency-response. The pandemic forced hands around safety, flexibility, and accessibility--but also exposed the fact that most businesses weren't giving these aspects of the workplace enough attention. The reality sunk in, and the time to think smarter and more about what people need had arrived. It's not just operational. It's cultural.


As a result, we wanted to make sure our customers and partners understood how Ava Telepresence could advance their long term business initiatives, from collaboration to sales enablement to innovation. We also wanted to let them know that we, too, have plans to evolve.

In July, we collaborated with MIT CSAIL to build a UV robot to help disinfect the Greater Boston Food Bank. This project was not only a great opportunity to work with one of our partners for a worthy cause, it was a chance to extend Ava's robotics technology to a new application. Additionally, we welcomed CSAIL's Daniela Rus to our Board of Directors, as well as Alyssa Pierson and Saman Amarasinghe to our research and advisory teams.


Throughout 2020, we shared many great experiences with a wonderful cast of partners and customers. Highlights include a range of thought leadership interviews, articles, podcasts, collaborations, and videos with our friends at Steelcase, Sasaki, Cisco, The Design Museum, EPAM Continuum, Verizon, and MIT. We are extremely grateful for and energized by this incredible range of people and businesses who continually make us better.


Looking ahead to 2021: Workplace robots are positioned to DO and BE more for people.


We enter 2021 focusing on the positives and promises. Based on what we saw and experienced, we believe:

  • Distributed teams and incremental returns to the workplace will demand more customized business best practices for safety, collaboration, and operations.

  • Intelligent mobility and human-centered features will emerge as crucial differentiators among workplace robots.

  • Robots will not just deliver productivity, but also accessibility and fairness to populations that will not be able to be physically in the workplace.

  • Businesses investing in robotics as a short-term response to Covid19 will recognize long term value, expanding their applications.

But there are a lot of questions around the future of work, workplace solutions, and new approaches to technology floating in the ether. We recognize robotics is an important piece in a very large puzzle that hasn't even been framed.


How will businesses approach telepresence and workplace robots in 2021?


There are companies who have already adopted telepresence robots to help deliver on their innovation and/or collaboration initiatives, even before the pandemic. They will likely continue to expand and build upon their collaboration tools and capabilities into 2021 with strong motivation to lead the way into the future of work.


Additionally, some companies recognized the need for telepresence technology in response to the pandemic. Within this group, some will follow the footsteps of their proactive role models. But some may be less certain of telepresence as a long term solution. Our team anticipates continued reinforcement of Ava Telepresence as a workplace mainstay that benefits increasingly distributed teams and helps businesses enable a variety of operations.


What will be the popular use cases and applications for telepresence?


There will be more applications in the overall corporate space as more businesses shift their culture to promote distributed teams with meeting spaces vs. formal offices. Telepresence robots are positioned to become primarily a part of workplace culture with a secondary role as a proof point for new innovation.


Innovation centers will always be a hotspot for telepresence robots (and robots in general). How businesses employ robots, hopefully, will change as their role in the workplace moves more toward enablement and productivity. It's not about gadgetry, it's about people and teams working together and more effectively.


How will telepresence needs shift in the coming year?


Healthcare had the most immediate needs for solutions across the board, as telehealth requirements increased and in-person visitation came to a screeching halt. Healthcare will continue to be in the conversation for telepresence, but more so in the larger telehealth context, not necessarily unique to robotics.


As people slowly return to work, the focus will shift to offices and physical spaces where employees, clients, and customers require a better way to interact and experience people and spaces. Productivity, company culture, and user experience will drive the need in 2021.


How do you envision the future of workplaces evolving over the next five years?


The future of workplaces is distributed, fluid, and hybrid. New business best practices to support flexibility, safety, and productivity will quickly form. Workplaces will need to be more modular and customizable to meet the needs of the future workforce. Telepresence robots are just one aspect that will help create the best possible work environment for people, no matter where they are.


There is also an opportunity for different technologies to fuel each other, such as robotics, XR (AR/VR), 3D printing, etc.


What challenges do telepresence robots need to overcome in 2021?


The challenge remains largely the same for robotics technology companies: communicating the business value and proving out use cases to encourage adoption. Understanding how telepresence robots can contribute to the workplace with functionality, mobility, and safety is part of the story. But it’s also demonstrating how robots can compliment the cultural shift toward the future workplace design and ecosystem we have ahead of us.

Alternatively stated:


Telepresence, and other workplace, robots contribute to a complete solution picture. We face a post-pandemic future that forever changes perception of the world, which translates into a post-pandemic environment that forever changes perception of the workplace.



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