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Virginia Tech tests new mobile technology

By Brendan King, WDBJ7 Intern Reporter
Published On: Jul 24 2013 05:12:36 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 24 2013 07:08:12 PM EDT

The future is here. Virginia Tech is using new technology that looks like something straight from the Jetsons.

BLACKSBURG, Va. -

Virginia Tech is using new technology that looks like something straight from the Jetsons.
 
It's five feet tall, moves on three wheels, and weighs about 100 pounds.
But, what is it?

"I would call it, being able to be there without actually being there device," InnovationSpace Senior Director Jennifer Sparrow said.

Officially it's called Beam technology, a mobile video conferencing device that connects through the Wi-fi network and is controlled by the arrows on a keyboard. It's truly, technology of the future.

"It is very futuristic but when we talk about emerging technology in higher ed, we are really talking about how do we reach a greater audience. How do we engage our learners and how do we make them feel like they're apart of the experience," Sparrow said.

There is technology like Facetime that let's you talk to someone face to face. But, beam gives you the sense of actually being in the room, even if you're hundreds of miles away.

The robot can serve as a substitute for a professor or still allow a student to be in class if they can't be there in person.

"The faculty member can be working with students at JMU and then they will be able to be virtually present here in the classroom," Sparrow said.

Right now, Virginia Tech's InnovationSpace department is demoing the devices and hasn't commited to the steep price tag of more than $16,000 per unit, but say it will help them stay as leaders in innovation.

"We have a real opportunity to bring in new and interesting technologies and figure out how they fit," Sparrow said.

By adopting new technology, Virginia Tech continues to follow it's mission: Invent the Future.