I had seen commercials for telepresence technology, but was skeptical. It seemed like an unnecessary extravagance when simply video teleconferencing technology would suffice.
I was wrong.
Earlier today I participated in my first telepresence meeting. This Cisco technology puts your remote participants directly across the table from you. The sound quality is amazing, and the levels make the remote participants sound like they are actually in the same room. The sound even emanates from the location of the speaker; when the fellow on the left speaks, the sound comes from the left. It’s an immersive experience where you quickly forget that the folks across the table are actually across the Atlantic!
How does telepresence compare to traditional video teleconferencing? I’ve been in many of these video telecons, but they pale in comparison. Often the screen is so crowded and the people so small that you can’t tell who is talking. Sometimes it’s difficult to even distinguish who is who! They are a weak substitute for face-to-face meetings, but in a time where businesses are rightly watching their budgets, they have become a necessary evil.
In contrast, the telepresence technology is so immersive that when one of the remote participants dropped a sheet of paper, one of my local colleagues instinctively reached to pick it up, only to realize that it was thousands of miles away.
Effectively, Cisco TelePresence has killed old school video teleconferencing for me.