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Telepresence to Take On Whole New Meaning in the Future: An Interview with Futurist Barry Shuler

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December 03, 2010

Telepresence to Take On Whole New Meaning in the Future: An Interview with Futurist Barry Shuler

By Stefania Viscusi, Assignment Desk Editor

The market for telepresence solutions continues to grow today as both consumers and business users look for smarter, more efficient ways to meet face to face.

But the future of this technology, according to one technologist and futurist, will take face to face communications to a whole new level.

I reached out Barry Shuler to find out more about the topic and the subject of his new book, “Virtual Travel: Embrace or Expire.”

When asked to describe his ideas on the future of virtual travel and how it relates to or is different than current Telepresence (News - Alert) offerings, Shuler noted that while Cisco’s Telepresence, HP’s HALO, and other truly high-end virtual collaborative meeting systems are “stellar” and go beyond even “video conferencing on steroids,” this technology is still only “scratching the surface of what will be possible in 20-30 years.”

The virtual travel of the future, Shuler said, will be a, “true five-sense experience that will be indistinguishable from actually ‘being there’ physically.” Telepresence today only uses sight and sound to during conferencing sessions.

“Travel is an easy application of virtual reality for everyone to understand. We all travel. We all understand the hassles involved in the journey and the pleasures of the destination.  And the vast majority of us would like to dispense with the former and get on with the latter without delay, ” Shuler said. “In Telepresence, the meeting attendees are being projected to High Definition (HD) life-sized screens with high fidelity sound for their voices.”

This is, “so lifelike, that in less than 5 minutes, the attendees actually do feel like they are in the same room.”

But, even if people so engaged during the videoconference that they literally try to shake hands with those “across the table” – that simply cannot be done in Telepresence, Schuler said. With virtual travel, this will not only be possible, but according to Shuler, anything that is possible if people were together physically - will be possible in virtual travel.  

So what will be behind this technological innovation?

“Powerful computing and communications technology and content that is loaded into the platform and continuously updated.” 

Together, these elements will make it possible for a person’s Avatar to, “be injected into the electronically-created virtual world where a “traveler’s” five senses will be stimulated very much like “The Matrix,” Shuler said.

 “Your avatar would look, sound, and act exactly as you do in real life, and can experience anything that you could experience in the destination if you were physically there.”

Now this is something I’ve got to see!

Be sure to check back next week when I speak with Schuler about the benefits virtual travel will bring to personal and business users.

Stefania Viscusi is an assignment editor for TMCnet, covering voice and Voice over IP technologies. She also oversees production of TMCnet's e-Newsletters in the areas of Internet telephony and speech technology. To read more of Stefania's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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