By Adam at 3:15 AM CST
Millions of people watched the incredible presidential election on Tuesday. Networks and news outlet were eager to show off the new technology they have been working on to integrate into their traditional newscasts since the last election. A day after the election and CNN seems to be the clear winner in wowing us all with its holographic anchor who stood in studio next to Wolf Blitzer. Although it was new to many Americans, this holographic technology has been around and in development for quite some time.
Cisco Systems created “Telepresence”, an approach to reduce the cost and time needed to meet or present to people in remote locations and still feel like you are all present in the same room. Cisco has shared two flavors of this technology. The simplest of the two utilizes a a set of large screens opposite to a conference table. This set up is mirrored in multiple locations so two ore more groups can meet and talk face to face as if they were in the same room. If someone talks to you from the right side of the table and you look to reply to them it will look as if you are looking right at them as you reply. Even the sound is designed to mimic the true experience of a round table of attendees. The following video is from 2006 demonstrates the use of Telepresence with attendees from around the world. Read on for videos and more information.
The second implementation of Cisco Telepresence is what was seen on CNN. Rather than use screens in a conference room, a person is holographically projected in 3D on stage or in a location of choice as if they were present. Use of this is ideal for presentations and speaking appearances at conferences. Could you imagine Steve Jobs presenting a keynote around the world to 4 simultaneous Mac World conferences?! A video demonstration of this was posted online from 2007 (video below) by Cisco CEO John Chambers
Is this just a cool new giant tech toy or does it have some significance to businesses and people in general? I would say the latter. The amount of time and money spent each year for face to face meetings must be much less than in years past due to the internet and conference call technology, but Cisco Telepresence takes it more than a step further. Cisco has tried to look at what some of the downsides are to not being “face to face” and eliminate them. The ability to add nonverbal communication (body language/posture and facial expressions) to the teleconferencing equation is very valuable. The only thing missing really is actual physical contact. Equally significant is the environmental impact that this technology might have if adopted on a wider scale. No need to burn fuel driving or flying to remote locations or across town.
It is great to see CNN tout this new technology in such a public forum and Cisco must be proud to see their technology in action as well. I look forward to see how Telepresence makes its way into business and media centers around the world over the next couple years. Whats next? Teleportation? “I’ve got to run to a meeting now. Beam me up Scotty!”.