SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Eric Krapf | April 02, 2008 |

 
   

How Effective Is Telepresence?

How Effective Is Telepresence? Here's my weekly VoiceCon eNews. Go here to get them emailed to you earlier in the week: Inspired by the Al Gore-John Chambers VoiceCon keynote (video here), a lot of the bloggers at No Jitter have been addressing the relative importance and efficacy of telepresence. As usual, Tom Nolle had probably the most interesting take, and one that drew quite a few comments (here). Tom picked up on something that ought to have been obvious from the start about telepresence, yet it's something that I haven't seen remarked on too widely: Many users report being disappointed in the inability to use a whiteboard effectively in a telepresence session.

Here's my weekly VoiceCon eNews. Go here to get them emailed to you earlier in the week: Inspired by the Al Gore-John Chambers VoiceCon keynote (video here), a lot of the bloggers at No Jitter have been addressing the relative importance and efficacy of telepresence. As usual, Tom Nolle had probably the most interesting take, and one that drew quite a few comments (here). Tom picked up on something that ought to have been obvious from the start about telepresence, yet it's something that I haven't seen remarked on too widely: Many users report being disappointed in the inability to use a whiteboard effectively in a telepresence session.

Here's my weekly VoiceCon eNews. Go here to get them emailed to you earlier in the week:

Inspired by the Al Gore-John Chambers VoiceCon keynote (video here), a lot of the bloggers at No Jitter have been addressing the relative importance and efficacy of telepresence. As usual, Tom Nolle had probably the most interesting take, and one that drew quite a few comments (here). Tom picked up on something that ought to have been obvious from the start about telepresence, yet it's something that I haven't seen remarked on too widely: Many users report being disappointed in the inability to use a whiteboard effectively in a telepresence session.Whiteboarding has become a pretty standard expectation for many people who do multi-party multimedia conferencing, and so it's not surprising that they're not satisfied with simply looking at the whiteboard that's in the other folks' conference room without being able to add their own contributions. As Tom mentions, this is a function where higher-resolution images certainly make for less user dissatisfaction, but it's still not optimal.

And to me, it raises a more basic question: What's really the point of telepresence? If it's to make the meeting as much like an in-person gathering as possible, what's the best way to do that?

I don't know if anyone's written a gospel of telepresence. Is it telepresence dogma that the screens must project what's in front of the camera in the opposite room, as a more or less static broadcast? Does it break some telepresence fourth wall if you, say, integrate a whiteboard function as a picture-in-picture display that everyone can contribute to and see?

The message that John Chambers and Sue Bostrom-and, frankly, that Al Gore-put out at VoiceCon, is that Cisco's Telepresence offers a stunning (Gore used the word "spectacular") rendering of the participants in a meeting. And indeed it does. But is realism enough?

Cisco, after all, purchased WebEx, an acquisition that brought along a lot of very intriguing network-based possibilities. But WebEx also brought along a more obvious tool: a very robust meeting application, an interface that millions of people are familiar and comfortable with. I hope Cisco is working on ways to integrate the seemingly pedestrian capabilities of WebEx conferencing with the magic of high-definition video for a more complete telepresence package.

The Cisco telepresence keynote was preceded by Mike Rhodin of IBM, whose keynote included, among other things, a Second Life-like conferencing app demo. As I blogged at the time, these two demonstrations sort of bookended the idea of next-gen conferencing technology, as far as I was concerned.

I think Cisco, HP, Polycom, and any other vendor that's thinking in terms of "telepresence"-i.e., a high-end, high-cost (to be blunt) meeting system-shouldn't just see the technology as an attempt to make the pictures life-like. They should be thinking about making the experience life-like, and that doesn't necessarily mean only realistic pictures; it means a realistic experience, and experiences take place not only in the eyes and optic nerves, but in lots of parts of the brain that combine them in ways we don't understand (or need to understand, for our purposes).

For example, collaborating on a big, wall-mounted whiteboard is something you can do when everyone's physically in the same room; but when there are two or more rooms, it feels not at all unnatural for people to use a computer-based interface to collaboratively mark up a work space of some sort. You could kind of kludge this together now, by having people bring their PCs to a telepresence meeting and concurrently get on a WebEx conference or internal social networking site; but the more elegant solution would be to incorporate it into a telepresence room.

One final note: Several of the other VoiceCon speakers took some swipes at the steep ($300K per room) price tag that telepresence carries. That's fair enough-as far as it goes. But everyone knows telepresence is expensive. Tom Nolle notes that, in his experience, the folks who pay for the full telepresence experience are more satisfied than those who try to cobble together a "telepresence-lite" system.

So the question for your enterprise is whether, even at its steep price tag, telepresence can add value and ROI. And the followup question for the vendors is: How could it add even more value?





COMMENTS



July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.