It is already three years since my last blog post! My work has the last few years been of a nature where it would be difficult to write about the things I wanted to without revealing things about my work that I could not reveal. So, after some drafts, I ended up not posting anything until now. Sad, but then it’s good to be back again 🙂
Well, it’s only fitting that I continue where I left: what is telepresence? Or TelePresence… The other day, I was in a meeting, and somebody asked why we (and Rowan Trollope, our VP) now were referring to video and not so much telepresence anymore. In my first post on this topic, I predicted that the telepresence term would slowly disappear. What has happened since then?
Let’s go back to the original definition of telepresence: a high-quality, torso-sized, no-compromise audio and video experience, “just like being there.” We (as in Cisco) undermined that definition by talking about video experiences that were good (but maybe not telepresence experiences in its original definition) as telepresence. However, I believe we did the right thing by pushing elements of the telepresence experience down into lower-prized products, thus making it less and less necessary to differentiate between telepresence, video conferencing, and UC phones as they all improved. You still need a term for that torso-sized, no-compromise experience, and we have used “immersive telepresence” as that term. Typically, immersive telepresence systems have multiple cameras and monitors.
So, what is the telepresence now? Instead of being used to refer to a category of products, it now more often refers to the experience “tele presence”, or “just like being there”. So, from the web browser to the board room, you can get various degrees of the “just like being there” experience. We, as the industry, are striving to get better tele presence experience into cheaper and cheaper products. Why is this distinction important at all? Because, seeing is believing and until you have really experienced the difference between a normal quality, laptop camera, consumer-video call and a tele presence call, you don’t really know what you are missing. You still have to pay for a tele presence experience, but far less than when I wrote the previous post, and it is getting cheaper year by year.
So, when referring to products, we have IP phones without video, we have IP phones with video (and with some pretty good tele presence experience elements), we have former classic video conferencing products that now are pretty close in experience to the original telepresence products, and we have immersive video products that are typically delivered to board rooms and high-end collaboration rooms. I can see that the use of the telepresence term from Cisco’s side may have confused you, but it should be easier now: you should add tele presence video experiences to as many calls as possible, you will notice how that changes how you work.