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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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Green, Of Course

Another benefit that’s going to attract corporations to the technology is the ever-present environmental appeal. Telepresence means less travel, which means fewer trains, planes, and cars polluting the Earth, but that’s nothing new—that was promised ages ago with the advent of videoconferencing and other telecommunications. Nonetheless, it is a big asset for companies that are looking at way to reduce their carbon footprint without loosing the value and quality that comes with face-to-face meetings, which is what telepresence promises.

“When we first introduced the product a lot of people said, 'Oh, this is a better corporate jet,' Scroedar says. "While this is faster and cheaper and more scalable corporate jet, we actually don’t like that comparison very much because people immediately go, 'Hmm. It’s a way to reduce travel.'

Where’s This Technology Going?

Because this technology is in the early adopter stage, with integrators and users learning just how exactly it will fit into the spectrum of support and efficiency, telepresence is seeing an exponential growth curve. Analysts predict that saturation of these systems in use will grow by 2000 percent by 2013—of course, this is all dependent upon the education of potential users and organizations. It still has a ways to go though, but both Schroeder and Gorzynski say that room use has already seen marked growth by their users, and the technology will be the new yardstick for how telecommunications will be measured in the future.

“People sort of joke about the public switch telephone network (PSTN). You could say that we are building the next PSTN—the next Public Switch Telepresence Network,” Scroedar says.

Suddenly I feel like watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Captain Jean-Luc Picard is at the helm of the bridge trying to negotiate with the Klingons or some other foe on the giant screen. Will telepresence steal traditional videoconferencing’s thunder? It’s already done that a little already, but many companies probably won’t be able to look past the price tag to even consider the technology. With systems starting around $80,000 and then quickly escalating in the six figures for the complete room builds for systems such as Halo, the technology may be out of reach for companies yet.

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