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Telepresence: A Closer Look at Virtual Travel of the Future

TMCnews Featured Article

December 21, 2010

Telepresence: A Closer Look at Virtual Travel of the Future

By Stefania Viscusi, Assignment Desk Editor

Envisioning a world where people are like avatars and technology is a giant part of existence might be something that was just make-believe in “The Jetsons” or more recent movies like “Avatar,” but the reality of this isn’t so far away.

Today, people are finding ways to use technology to cut down on expenses, save time, keep in touch, and even conduct business more efficiently.

Conferencing and Telepresence solutions allow people to interact via video and audio so that they can still have face-to-face conversations, without needing to be physically located in the same room.

Taking this reality steps further is virtual travel that will make “virtual reality” and full-immersion experiences – including taste, touch, and smell, possible.

Technologist and Futurist Barry Shuler, who, recently released a book, “Virtual Travel: Embrace or Expire,” talked to me about the purpose of his book and how people will be impacted by virtual travel technology.

“One of the reasons I wanted to write this book was to share my thoughts on the topic. But I was equally, if not more, interested in readers’ reactions,” Shuler said.

“I hope this book will spur dialogue and help to place the topic of virtual travel more in the mainstream for strategy and planning professionals in the industries that might be affected.”

Referencing passages from his book, Shuler said that dramatic changes in physical travel can have an affect on travel destinations and the industry that currently serves their needs. But, “virtual travel does not have to totally replace physical travel for entire industries to be radically changed,” according to Shuler. “All it will take for this to happen is for a relatively small percentage of existing physical travel to be curtailed and for the emerging generations of travelers to begin thinking that physical travel is just one travel alternative, and certainly not the "only way to fly."   

Unlike physical destinations that need residents and travelers to keep the area flourishing, virtual travel destinations are unlimited and can be constantly updated by programmers and software.  “Eventually, it will be so much easier and cheaper to build these destinations and new or improved attractions in software than to actually build them physically,” Shuler notes.

“For example, rather than construct a real bridge, why not construct it in virtual reality and the traveler will experience it as if it were actually there, including walking across it, feeling the breeze, and so on?”

Here lies the beauty of virtual travel and the possibilities ahead of us as technology continues to advance. I for one will be first in line to experience a “virtual reality” nap on beach sand of Maui on a cold New England day.

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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