WebRTC World Feature Article

December 10, 2013

Telepresence: Re-engineering Business Collaboration and Online Meetings with WebRTC

Telepresence refers to the possibility given by technology to be able to be present (although virtually) in a different place to perform work, participate in meetings and communicate with colleagues. It allows “visual collaboration” at a distance and the ability to share information with colleagues and/or clients. It is commonly used in commercial and corporate settings to facilitate live business meetings (known as e-meetings) and conferences at different endpoints via a variety of systems.

The equipment required to make telepresence possible varies in complexity and can include high-end systems featuring display screens, multiple high-definition cameras, microphones and loudspeakers. Appropriate software and a network with a large amount of dedicated bandwidth are essential for the platform to enable multi-party conferencing in real-time, independent of location, to carry out two-way audio and video signal transmissions.

Up until now, telepresence has made a great impact on business where it has often been used as a substitute for face-to-face meetings. The quickly evolving technology is enabling individuals or groups of people in distant or unreachable locations to participate in virtual meetings on short notice, with time and money savings for those that cannot be physically present to meet in-person.

Telepresence is here to stay and is set for growth; it is expected to increase in usage in the coming years as it becomes more affordable and accessible, like videoconferencing solutions, according to a recent survey commissioned by Polycom and conducted by Redshift Research. Their findings reveal it’s becoming as popular in the office as it is at home.

Although some businesses are still reluctant in its use for meetings, telepresence is an apt option for removing barriers and giving end users the ability to connect whenever and wherever with distant clients, remote business partners, vendors or colleagues, said Human Productivity Lab founder and president Howard Lichtman.

Telepresence technology is advancing in a way that more and more the physical distance between parties has been removed and virtual presence at meetings can almost feel as physically present.

Lichtman believes in the effectiveness of WebRTC, a rising technology that turns Web browsers into real-time communication tools. “WebRTC sits in the middle and translates everyone into a virtual meeting room,” he said. “You’re able to see the people you’re meeting with. You’re even able to share information. WebRTC is one of the technologies that are driving the video revolution.”

However, Lichtman stresses, that “face time with clients and partners is essential for building strong relationships.” Although video conferencing can’t replace a good handshake or the relationship-building effectiveness of a work dinner, new technologies are making it easy to facilitate contacts and reduce distances.

Users tend to adapt to new technologies; telepresence is one of those advances that presents the most natural form of virtual communication and transmission of audio and video between multiple locations. Ultimately, this makes collaboration more effective -- perhaps to share in-progress information or to ask advice from their counterparts residing elsewhere. All in all, it offers a true face-to-face meeting experience where users can actually feel as if being in the room with the parties they are conversing with, without the necessity of leaving their offices. The human factor is enhanced in these virtual meetings as the technology almost disappears while participants all feel like they are really sharing the same room.

Nowadays, handheld mobile devices have also extended video conferencing capabilities, making it possible for an entrepreneur to connect on the go. Google Hangouts is one such platform that is accessible on desktop browsers as well as mobile devices. It makes it easy for those with a Google ID to connect by enabling one-on-one instant messaging and group video chat conversations.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey


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