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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Understanding Telepresence for Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is fast becoming the typical way to conduct business meetings with members overseas; gone are the days of the conference call for most. While definitely more personal than a simple phone call, the disadvantages of video conferencing include not truly feeling like you’re in the same room as those on the other side of the web camera. While it isn’t necessarily a problem, the ideal is to feel as if there isn’t a barrier there and this is where the art of telepresence comes in. So what benefits on video conferencing does telepresence offer? Well it’s important to understand what we mean by telepresence first of all.

A Polycom VSX 7000 camera used for videoconfer...
A Polycom VSX 7000 camera used for videoconferencing (top) with 2 video conferencing screens for simultaneous broadcast from 2 separate locations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is Telepresence

Telepresence is defined by the ability to share audio, data and video with a distinct party as though you and the party were truly in the same space; perhaps across a conference table. What makes telepresence different in relation to typical video conferencing systems is how the audio, video, document sharing, control systems and room environment are handled in that they strive to link up all of these aspects in such a way as to be seamless. The advantages of video conferencing while keeping telepresence in mind is the experience of doing congealed business with others without feeling miles apart. While HD systems promise the latest in video conferencing software telepresence, there are other aspects that need to be considered to capture true telepresence.

The Aspects of Telepresence

Audio quality is something that isn’t associated with HD or visual aspects at all, but it’s an important thing to get right for telepresence to take place. Video conferencing equipment can help greatly in this department, but what you want to avoid is excessive audio clipping or delay; the ability for example to record a whisper just as well as a boisterous laugh is important since asking if someone can repeat what they just said excessively destroys the experience. When it comes to video quality, capturing everyone in the room in an equal way is another aspect needed to ensure telepresence; it doesn’t help the experience at all when the camera needs to be moved to get a member of the meeting on screen to make a statement.

Teliris VirtuaLive Telepresence Modular System
Teliris VirtuaLive Telepresence Modular System (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another aspect that helps telepresence along is latency; while this aspect is near impossible to get right without a proper infrastructure in place that is out of the hands of companies and in the hands of telecommunication providers, there are options that are perhaps expensive. With strong latency, high definition visuals and good sound, it’s left only to the environment to get telepresence as good as it’s going to get; which allows video conferencing to become a wholly personal experience.

Eugene Calvini is a writer and tech enthusiast; particularly involved with video conferencing London and Bristol, he is experienced with Polycom conferencing and shares his experience with others.

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