Video over IP

Would you go for Telepresence over Video Conference?

If Video Conference happens in a room, Telepresence happens in a studio! Almost every aspect of a Telepresence system is engineered to give a truly immersive environment for the participants so that they feel that everyone participating in the meeting is sitting in the same room. But, would you go for a Telepresence system in your organization, provided that Video Conference systems are getting better and better every day?

You should be familiar with Video Conferencing. Now,  have a look at this video (Youtube, 1:00) to have an idea of what a Telepresence meeting looks like. I know, that’s not the best video on Telepresence out there, but its short and sufficient to get an idea.

Generally, a Video Conferencing system adapts to the meeting room/ board room environment. But with Telepresence, a special studio needs to be created according to certain predefined specifications that helps to create an environment optimized for the best possible audio-visual experience.

Everything from the lights, to the room acoustics including sound-echo absorption materials used in the walls, placement of the speakers for 3D experience, placement of mic(s) that pick up voice from anywhere in the room but leave out murmuring/ interfering sounds, placement of the cameras including multiple cameras required for a clear and equidistant view of all the participants, placement of screens and determining the number and sizes of screens required to display life-size images of the far-end participants, conference table size and shape in order to make everyone involved in the conference look like sitting around a single table, textures, colors, dimensions used for each material in the room, and pretty much everything else is pre-defined and followed scrupulously to the last detail.

Telepresence systems often include A/V Control systems that have certain programmable preset configurations for controlling almost every aspect of the room with a single touch. For example, you can press one button to dim the lights and focus on the output of the digital projector (presentation). Another button might bring you back to the normal meeting room mode. With a Video Conferencing system, a lot of things need to be done manually – right from initiating the VC, closing the windows, dimming the lights, switching on the projector, zooming/ focusing on individual personnel using a manual remote control, connecting your laptop to make a presentation, etc. It is possible to individually integrate a lot of components to create a Telepresence-like atmosphere with Video Conferencing systems itself, but that’s another topic.

Of course, Telepresence systems come at a huge cost. Often the costs for Telepresence system can range anywhere between 10x to 100x of a traditional video conferencing system installation cost. Add to it the huge dedicated bandwidth requirements of 2-10 Mbps (in order to minimize latency) every month, you have considerable recurring expenditure as well.

Video Conferencing, on the other hand has been steadily improving and High Definition Video Conferencing is very common and affordable these days. A Video Conference system can call a Telepresence unit and vice versa. So, interoperability is also not an issue. It has never been an issue in the Video Conferencing industry, except for the latest H.264-SVC Codec.

Both Video Conferencing and Telepresence have one major goal – To enable instant video communication/ meetings between people irrespective of their geographic locations & to reduce the travel related expenses / time/ efforts, especially for top executives. The ROI on a Video Conferencing system is very quick.

Considering all these factors, would you go for Telepresence in your company over Video Conference?

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