One agency is using an in-house robot to make remote workers feel more connected

The newest resident employee at Red Interactive Agency isn’t an account executive or a creative director. It’s a walking-and-talking robot.

The agency has introduced Double, a robot that helps its remote employees across the country communicate effectively with staffers at its Santa Monica digs. The bot is basically an iPad on a Segway, and combines the fun of a remote-controlled game with the functionality of videoconferencing.

Employees can easily log in to control the robot, using a phone or computer to move it around and interact with colleagues. About 10 of the agency’s 140 staffers work remotely, in cities ranging from Portland to Philadelphia. The robot is made by Double Robotics, a Burlingame, California-based tech startup that produces iPad-based videoconference robots.

“There are a of technological tools at our disposal for remote employees to connect with the office, but what was missing was that aspect of striding through the halls or making small-talk with others,” said Mark Beechy, Red’s executive creative director, who himself works remotely. “It was those watercooler-type conversations that we want to use this to recreate.”

Brian Lovell, Red’s CEO, agreed, saying that the bot comes closest to “replicating that in-person feeling,” helping remote employees participate in everything from brainstorming sessions to client meetings. “It helps them stay top of mind and better integrates them within our culture.”

The robot is the latest in a series of initiatives that the agency has rolled out for its remote employees, including shared whiteboard screens and a couple of other proprietary initiatives by its internal innovation team RedX. Several teams within the agency have also started using the bot for communicating with clients, including ESPN and car retailer Edmunds, who’ve been given their own logins to the robot.

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