NEW YORK, USA: Telepresence, a kind of video conference providing the realistic sensation that all participants are actually in the same room, is a rapidly growing industry. The technology, however, is very expensive -- prohibitively so, for the majority of its potential users. Hence there is a growing trend toward offering telepresence as a managed service.
According to ABI Research vice president Stan Schatt, “The growth of managed telepresence services raises the prospect that soon virtually anybody, from multinational corporations to private individuals, may be able to benefit from this remarkable audiovisual experience.”
What makes telepresence more useful than phones, email, or ordinary videoconferencing? The key is the realism: in complex business negotiations body language, eye contact, and vocal realism are still critical. And for individuals communicating with distant loved-ones, there’s no substitute.
Today, telepresence managed services are still primarily used by large enterprises. But it won’t be long before small-medium businesses and eventually ordinary citizens can use the service. Schatt believes that “The price for telepresence managed services will eventually come down to where any mid-level manager can do it.”
There will also be public facilities, often in hotels or conference centers, where one can use telepresence for a fee. “That’s going to be very attractive to small businesses,” says Schatt. “Take a small business that has a supply chain relationship with an Asian company. The fee for an hour in a telepresence room is always going to be less than the cost of sending a key executive all the way to China. And fewer air miles are better for the environment.”
Many telepresence systems today are still not easily interoperable: another reason to let a service provider handle the technicalities. “We’re already seeing AT&T, BT, and Nortel being very active in this area,” says Schatt, “and India’s Tata Communications has started offering telepresence facilities in partnership with Cisco.”