Telepresence refers to a set of technologies allowing a person to feel as if they were “there” even though they are in another location. There are several requirements to telepresence, based predominantly on stimulating human senses by providing visual and audio means for exchange. In lesser terms, telepresence must allow for two or more users to communicate as they would if they were face-to-face, representing posture, body language and gestures – giving the feel as if they were engaging in an in-person conference or meeting.
Telepresence is deployed often in meeting rooms equipped with VoIP phones and high resolution plasma monitors that stream natural size images of people attending meetings. Among developers of telepresence technology, are leading manufacturers Cisco and Polycom, who have provided some powerful technology infrastructures for telecommunication. On the whole, telepresence is a technology aimed at medium and large sized corporations due to its high cost of implementation. A complete telepresence system ranges from $55,000 to half a million. Of course, there are less intricate and expensive versions that may be enjoyed by residential users. Web cams and VoIP systems may be used to create less sophisticated but viable substitutes compared to full-blown corporate telepresence environments.
How Does it Work?:
There are several basic elements needed to create an ideal telepresence location:
- A dedicated, spacious room
- Few or no windows at all to reduce glare
- Lighting adjustments
- Dedicated power source
- Internet Connectivity
In a corporate setting, telepresence requires at least two locations with dedicated server hardware and software, enough bandwidth to support the HD throughput, and equipment capable of delivering high-quality audio and HD video. Communications will be most effective if people appear life-size, frequently seated, with their torso and hands visible to aim to simulate more natural, real-life interaction. This goal is called “transparency of implementation”, where it's sought to closely replicate the brain's innate preferences for interpersonal communication rather than a “talking heads” experience found in older forms of videoconferencing.
A powerful method of unified communications and collaboration, telepresence is an optimal way to reduce cost and increase productivity. Platforms such a Polycom's RealPresence supplement telepresence solutions to create immersive environments to desktop and mobile applications. In the medical field, telehealth is also on the rise, connecting doctors with staff to improve health care as a whole. There's no shortage of manufacturers and developers striving to make video collaboration ubiquitous, with AT&T even contributing its expertise. Telepresence provides a comprehensive bridge that goes beyond just video conferencing, aiding in troubleshooting, training, and collaborative design.