Remote calls into a conference room at headquarters are the worst: too often, voices are muffled, mumbled, delayed and indistinct. When the conversation turns to the whiteboard—forget about it. The best thing to do is hang up and blame it on a bad line.
Meeting Owl, though, seems a long step toward reducing the pain. I got a demo of this smart robot, which you place on your conference room table, where it listens and rotates between people as they speak. A fish-eye, 360-degree lens renders the entire whiteboard visible. If it detects three speakers, and they are in different parts of the room, it shifts to a tri-split screen. And eight microphones make them distinctly clear. "Lots of telepresence robots have been made. The first most important problem is moving around the conference room," Mark Schnittman, the CTO of Owl Labs, told me.