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A refined definition of 'telepresence'

Convergence & VoIP Alert By , Network World
May 17, 2011 03:04 PM ET
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VoIP, unified messaging, products and services

Network World - We've often spoken about "telepresence" in this newsletter, and like so many others in our industry we've probably used the term too loosely. So today we'll try and correct the error of our ways and offer what we think is a pretty good definition forwarded to us by Howard Lichtman of the Human Productivity Lab.

Lichtman's work is part of a broader effort offered by the Webtorials Analyst Division in collaboration with Telepresence Options Magazine.

IN PICTURES: It's not telepresence, but ...

Lichtman's one-sentence definition of telepresence: "Visual collaboration solutions that address the human factors of participants and attempt to replicate, as closely as possible, an in-person experience."

As for defining the key difference between "telepresence" and "videoconferencing" (especially high-definition videoconferencing), Lichtman continued in an online Q&A session with Steve Taylor: 

"Telepresence is a visual collaboration solution that addresses human factors to better improve end-user acceptance over and above what can be achieved with traditional videoconferencing. The goal is to create an environment that closely replicates an in-person meeting experience. Generally, telepresence solutions will also have some combination of the following features: life-sized or near life-sized images, eye contact or the approximation of eye contact, studio-quality sound, acoustics, directional audio, lighting, and engineered environments that achieve a consistency of quality."

He further contends that "the ROI of deploying telepresence solutions is that usage goes up 100%, 200%, or even higher over traditional videoconferencing. Participants are able to stay in the environments longer, fatigue is less, and both retention and comprehension are improved."

Asked about whether or not mobile devices are part of the telepresence environment, Lichtman replied, "Mobile devices fall into the category of videoconferencing or visual collaboration. They can still be deployed in ways that address the human factors of participants but in and of themselves they are not telepresence."

If you'd like to see the full online conversation or read the full article that defines telepresence, please click here. And in the future, we'll try to be a bit more disciplined in our use of the term. Our thanks to Lichtman and to Webtorials for sharing these insights.

Read more about voip & convergence in Network World's VoIP & Convergence section.

Steve Taylor is president of Distributed Networking Associates and publisher/editor-in-chief of Webtorials. Larry Hettick, an independent analyst and consultant, is a 30-year industry veteran. He has covered VoIP and UC at Network World for 12 years.

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