Towards Immersive Telepresence

Wall Street Journal (US edition) has an article today ‘Better Virtual Meetings’ in which it says:

A new generation of high-end video-conference systems is facilitating virtual meetings that users say are almost like being there — especially compared with conventional systems plagued by jerky video and speech that isn’t synchronized with lip movements.

This article talks about emerging telepresence technology using high-end cameras, dedicated bandwidth, and good display systems.  Such systems can be useful in reducing travel.  But this area has potential in many applications and really does not have to be that high end also.  Another important thing is that these ststems — as described in this article — are still based on ‘communication’ technology primarily.  They do not take advantage of computing and the convergence of computing and communication.  The real benefits of telepresence will emerge when this convergence is really utilized.  When you start considering all sensor data just as data and use computing approaches on those, interesting things start happening.  And that’s where the true advantages for many applications may emerge.

Telepresence is definitely an attractive area and is in its early infancy.  In fact in a retreat of Multimedia researchers in November 2003, this area was considered to be a major challenge.  That report is available in ACM Transactions (TOMCCAP) [subscriptions required].  Major applications of this will first emerge in entertainment, healthcare, and business.  I see this as the way we will communicate and interact in a decade or two.  I also believe that the current models will be replaced by IP base approaches.

This whole area is very exciting.

(Disclosure: I am establishing a program in this area at UCI with Athina Markopoulou.  I did much research in this area about 10 year ago at UCSD.)

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