Telepresence – The Future of Webconferencing

This resource is to be used alongside the listening exercise about Telepresence.

Neil Simpkins: I think we expect to find out something about how the technology works, how it really feels to be in the room with people, and the difference perhaps between face-to-face meetings and the differences between telepresence and other similar kinds of technology such as videoconferencing.

Christine Gardner: It would be good to see if we could possibly use this to help students, say, keep in touch.

Neil Simpkins: I’m Neil Simpkins from The Open University. I’m a lecturer in communication systems and I’m working on a new course called TU100, which includes aspects about synchronous and asynchronous and other forms of communication.

Christine Gardner: My name’s Christine Gardner. I also work for The Open University and I’m part of the TU100 course team.

Oliver Hunt: My name’s Oliver Hunt. I work for Cisco as part of one of our specialist technology teams, focusing on this whole area of collaboration and unified communications.

Neil Simpkins: Do you think in the case of a meeting like this, where we’ve never actually met one to one, do you think that we can establish the same kind of relationships in business?

Oliver Hunt: You can genuinely build relationships because the quality is so good. Yes, it’s always good to back those up with occasional face to face, but it’s very immersive. People will become very comfortable with the technology and we’ve had scenarios where, you know, at the end of meetings, people have literally stood up to shake hands and that kind of thing. The reason that they’re designed in such a way, in terms of the layout of the desks, the colour and the shading on the wall, is that it’s all been designed to optimise the experience, yeah? The reason they are 65 inch screens and that in effect we are looking at each other as you would see it if we were sat around a boardroom table – the design, the acoustics, the lighting – everything is to get it as close as you possibly can to an in-person face-to-face meeting.

Christine Gardner: Are there other factors which improve the user experience?

Oliver Hunt: I think historically, why the likes of video technologies and traditional videoconferencing hasn’t maybe taken off as people thought it would back ten, fifteen years ago – the quality just wasn’t there. Reliability, in the sense that we’ve all had the experience of jumping on a traditional videoconferencing event, it maybe takes a while to set up and then five minutes in you lose the quality, you lose the lines and you have to start again. But the third piece is around usability. All the control for the video is coming from this system; it’s very, very user friendly, very simple to schedule and very simple to use.

The advent of broadband and the bandwidth that’s allowing people to use video technology, you know, that’s what’s making video so persuasive now. People are used to using, and almost expect to have, the option of being able to communicate via video. What differentiates this from other traditional kind of, more traditional-based systems is you can actually look directly into the eyes of another person. That you are in effect allowed to make effective decisions. It really does open up a lot more options in terms of use cases.

Christine Gardner: What would you say is the greatest technological challenge?

Oliver Hunt: The biggest challenge is around the quality – delivering this level of quality, HD quality, regardless of location. The nature of the technology is such that we are reliant on service providers around the world guaranteeing bandwidth across their networks, but in terms of being able to compress the size of the images we’re talking about here and allowing the screens to refresh at such a rate that it delivers the HD quality – that is certainly challenging for us. From a networking perspective, from what is going on in the background, there is quite a bit to it.

Original Source; from The Open University (Login Required): id=221283&extra=transcript_idp462288