Evolving technology enables immersive, real-time virtual meetings, face-to-face, without the high costs of travel
As organizations become increasingly distributed and overseas outsourcing become the norm, it's not unusual for execs, engineers, or sales teams to find themselves falling victim regularly to long, stressful, and often unproductive hours in transit on planes, trains, automobiles, and chicken buses (depending on where they are), in order to have face-to-face meetings.
The face-to-face aspect of a meeting is clearly important; it can be downright essential, in fact, for clear and productive collaboration sessions. Human beings pick up and process essential visual cues from their fellow homo sapiens that just can't be readily transmitted via the popular collaboration tools of today, like IM, wikis, and e-mail. Meanwhile, videoconferencing has not, by some critics' accounts, delivered the seamless, full-size, realistic face-to-face experience users have expected.
Fortunately, travel-weary executives and teams alike may just have cause for celebration: Telepresence technology has, by many accounts, achieved a level of quality, reliability, and affordability such that it's truly a realistic alternative to in-person face-to-face meetings.
"Vendors have raised the bar in terms of visual quality and audio quality and the whole environment of virtual meetings to the point that the technology is a viable alternative to actually traveling," says Jayanth Angl, research analyst at Info-Tech Research. "It's that immersive experience that people really need in order to conduct a real face-to-face meeting."
Howard S. Lichtman, president of the Human Productivity Lab (HPL), agrees. "Telepresence meetings make remote participants life-size, with fluid motion, accurate flesh tones, and flawless audio. The experience feels remarkably natural and comfortable for almost any size meeting," he writes in a very thorough research report titled "Telepresence, Effective Visual Collaboration, and the Future of Global Business at the Speed of Light."