Telepresence: Changing the Face of the World as We Know ItTechnologies such as audio, video, the internet, and advanced robotics are changing the face of the world as we know it. Advancements in those technologies have led to lower prices and better quality, allowing users to see and hear crystal clear images and audio, and providing an immersive experience—as if they were in the same room with one another. The essence of telepresence is this: an experience akin to augmented reality where connection and collaboration over long distances are (ideally) indistinguishable from a geographically proximal meeting. Universities and higher education institutions around the globe are beginning to catch on, providing telepresence rooms to connect different researchers all working on the same projects, albeit in different parts of the world, as well as support for telepresence robots that now afford distance learners a virtual campus experience.

Telepresence Rooms

Telepresence falls into two different categories: robots and rooms. Telepresence rooms are gaining in popularity in business and academia as unified communications solutions because the products have become so refined and affordable. In the past, two researchers wishing to share findings with one another would either have to wait for a conference, a face-to-face meeting or suffer the grainy resolution and consistently dropped audio of video solutions of the past, which often rendered the experience useless.

Today new telepresence systems employ life-size HD displays with built-in, remote-controlled high-definition cameras and audio equipment supported by high-bandwidth connectivity. Scientists have helped to make these systems prevalent on campuses because sharing findings via new telepresence technology is strikingly realistic. The California Community Colleges Confer project is one current supporter of telepresence systems, allowing those within their system to meet and share findings remotely, while students from both the University of Melbourne and the University of California, San Diego, have shared lectures with one another despite being on two continents.

Telepresence Robots

What if instead of going to a telepresence room to connect with others across the globe, the telepresence room could come to you? It’s already happening. Utilizing the same HD display with a remote controlled camera, robots controlled wirelessly by off-campus and distance-learning students are beginning to appear on college universities.

These telepresence robots have an iPad-like display that always shows the user’s face, simulating their presence in the actual classroom. Florida International University (FIU), Oral Roberts University (ORU), Michigan State University (MSU), UC-Berkeley, Indiana University, Stanford, and Brown have all experimented with distance learning programs utilizing telepresence robots with varying degrees of success. For the most part, the experience has been positive for all involved, though there are still hurdles to overcome.

Hurdles to Overcome

As it stands, one of the biggest challenges with telepresence is simply the cost—not only of adopting a program, but of maintaining and supporting it. A significant amount of bandwidth is required, and enterprises and large educational organizations tend to prefer installation of video bridges, which can get pretty expensive. However, as these technologies become more common and less costly, expect to see them in the classroom and on campuses much more often, providing powerful audio visual experiences.

Of course, nothing will ever beat the face-to-face meeting, the impromptu conversation over lunch or outside of a lecture hall, and the natural chemistry that arises from an in-person human connection. Still, telepresence is working to offer the next best thing, and it’s not far off the mark. In a world growing increasingly “remote” don’t be surprised if your next “face-to-face” with your colleague involves a robotic chassis as well.

At Advanced AV we empower live meetings and remote collaboration by deploying the technology that helps your organization connect, communicate and engage with its customers, employees and stakeholders. Connect with us to find out more about how Advanced AV can help you achieve your business and technology goals.

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