Telepresence is in the early stages of development with types of tele-presence already available i.e. conference calling from different platforms, collaborative desktop working and even video calls from call centres using VOIP (http://www.telepresence-marketing.com/). However, for me this really doesn’t seem to encapsulate telepresence.
The rapid growth of digital channels are beginning to raise the tangible vs. intangible debate – yes people want convenience, speed, cost-effective and a choice of products – but how many of us use the web to research options then go into a store to actually touch the dress or book before buying? Even technical savvy friends who joyfully purchase the latest upgrade for their design application at a mere $500 still want it delivered in a box with a disc not just downloaded. We are sensory creatures and can digital with it’s seemingly limited audio and visual stimulators be enough to sustain year on year double digit growth?
Strathclyde University’s Transparent Telepresence Research Group (TTRG) defines telepresence as:
“We define Transparent Telepresence as the experience of being fully present at a live real world location remote from one’s own physical location. Someone experiencing transparent telepresence would therefore be able to behave, and receive stimuli, as though at the remote site. The resulting vicarious interactive participation in activities, and the carrying out of physical work, will bring benefits to a wide range of users…” (http://telepresence.dmem.strath.ac.uk/telepresence.htm)
TTRG’s mission is to develop the first telepresence system that allows a user to experience the sensation of being fully present at a remote site. This to me sounds more like the role of telepresence more than just a video conference a sensory experience, driving technology to the point where users can be omni-present? Or is that trying to reach too high?
Tandberg (http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/mobile-working/2010/03/19/tandberg-plugs-hd-telepresence-into-desktop-40088379/) has taken a step in the right direction with an HD desktop monitor that doubles as a telepresence system. These steps along with the research from the likes of Strathclyde University are baby steps to producing a system that delivers a true to life (or as close as one can get) experience for the user. The web can not continue this rapid growth on static platforms alone unless of course the web’s ultimate role is a finger-post for users to take themselves into the outside world and experience it – perhaps no bad thing, but somehow I feel life on the web has much more to offer.