The television industry like any other business has truly felt the impact of COVID-19 over the past few months. Whether it’s the lack of audience, restricted crew numbers or simply cast members unable to travel to studios without breaking social distancing rules. All these have had an effect on the authenticity of the final aired product, particularly with live shows.
Channel 4’s The Last Leg was no exception when key cast member Alex Brooker was forced to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Following the mantra of “the show must go on” Open Mike Productions, The Last Leg’s production company, reached out to NESA Robotics to see if their telepresence robots could be used to give Alex Brooker a physical presence on the show whilst remaining at home. NESA Robotics responded by delivering the Beam telepresence robot on set within just a few hours.
The Beam Robot uses a series of cameras and a 10-inch screen mounted on a drivable robotic based to give the operator a feeling of really being in the room. Once the robot is connected to the internet and the operator has downloaded the app, they can “beam in” whenever they are needed on site. Upon beaming in, an image of the operator is projected on to the screen of the robot and they are able to make use of the built-in microphones and speakers to hold real time conversations with people in their vicinity.
Without ever leaving his home Alex was able to drive himself along the red carpet for the walk on at the beginning of the show and move about the set allowing him hold conversations with his fellow cast members and crew. Had he not been able to do this, Alex would have missed out on vital conversations that took place during rehearsals that ultimately affected how the show played out when it was broadcast live.
Towards the middle of 2020 the successor to the Beam, the GoBe, was released. This most recent advance utilises the very latest in camera and robotics technology to achieve the best real-world presence available to consumers. With active LiDAR laser scanners and 3D cameras the GoBe is capable of detecting and avoiding obstacles and autonomously driving into positions. This opens up all new opportunities for telepresence robots to be used in public environments such as train stations, airports and hotels with increased safety while. The new 4K cameras will also mean more realistic imaging and the ability to zoom will allow the operator to undertake tasks like reading text, checking tickets and identifying lost people in large crowds.
To see more of the Beam in action on episodes 2 and 3 of Series 20 of The Last Leg, click here.
For more information on the Beam and the GoBe, please click here.