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The Look and Feel of Telepresence, Part 2

Dec 27, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

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In the last issue of Corporate AV, we discussed the bigger issues of telepresence—bandwidth needs, audio, and just how telepresence is different from traditional videoconferencing. In this issue, we’ll discuss some of those same issues with HP Halo Chief Scientist Mark Gorzynski and the applications the technology is being used for as well as rate of use, costs, and the future of this technology.

HP Halo

Gorzynski says there was three things HP was trying to accomplish when designing Halo, a telepresence system the company calls a video collaboration studio that’s available for both creators in the film industry and the corporate workforce.

“The first thing that is different about Halo is the space we create for getting work done," Gorzynski says. "We try to design a space that is both good for the meeting; the table is the right kind of table, and the space is right for getting work done for the right number of people as well as it works for video. Sometimes people have a tendency to, for example, make a space good for work, but not video and so remote people are at an extreme disadvantage, or sometimes it’s geared toward video and the local work environment isn’t so good. Second, it has to be great for communication, and so you need to be concerned with some things like you mentioned, bandwidth, cameras, and screens, and so on so that they create what we call ‘transparent communication.’ It’s more than communication between two people; it’s social communication. So if you look at a spectrum of communications you might have personal communication between one person and another, you then start to include some nonverbal communication in addition to audio where I can see your face, but then it eventually gets to group communication. When you have group visual communication—social communication—with gestures in between each other, it’s very important to not to distort things like gestures to another person, or glances, and that’s really where telepresence and beyond telepresence is where I think Halo is—where we start to differentiate between normal videoconferencing, which really struggles to have you sense the presence of people on the other side, maybe get some basic facial contact, but really has a difficult time with group communication—especially transparently around the workspace, so sitting around a table together. I think the third thing we try to differentiate on is interaction, and so if you end up having to do a lot to support a system to turn it on it gets complicated, to turn it off it’s complicated, to get it configured, you’re interacting more with the technology than you are with your work. So what you want is the interaction to be about your work, not about the equipment. So you need to push the interaction to the background.”

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