Each year, the Meeting Planner Advisory Council gathers to discuss the finer points of the industry so Sonesta can continue to deliver the most seamless and enjoyable meeting experiences. Logistics, organization, and keeping participants engaged and surprised are always on the agenda. And this year, there was a surprising new face in attendance—“Phil,” the name given to the Virtual Attendee Robot that Sonesta recently acquired.

If you’ve been organizing meetings a while, you know that services like Skype or FaceTime can help you phone in an attendee who cannot physically be there. But if you’re the one who is being phoned in, your purview of the meeting is limited by the device you’re streaming into. If you’re coming in through a laptop, you can only see as wide as the camera lens. If through a mobile device, then you go where the device’s owner goes. The Virtual Attendee Robot, however, has mobile capabilities, giving the attendee more control and a higher level of engagement.

Imagine a tablet attached to the top of pole placed on a rolling platform, and you get the idea. The attendee is streamed through the tablet and an app allows the user to swivel the tablet and its camera so he or she can “look at” whomever is speaking, fully experiencing the meeting as it happens. He or she can also “walk” around the room on the Segway-like base or even go from one meeting to the next in a different room—all via controls in the app.

What does this mean for Sonesta meetings? Scott Weiler, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, says he’s looking ahead to a time when Sonesta can make a Virtual Attendee Robot available for guests attending their own meetings at Sonesta. “We’d like to have it as a value-add opportunity … in all our full-service hotels that have meeting capabilities at some point,” he said. For now, you can use “Phil” at Royal Sonesta Boston to tour the property as a planner or be a virtual attendee at your next meeting.

Convene, a trade magazine for meeting planners, was there to witness the Virtual Attendee Robot in action. You can read more here.