Videoconferencing goes high-definition Long-distance meetings are being held using full-size images of people whose expressions and body language can be read
Participants: Jason Leigh
By Jon Van
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 14, 2007
Hiring someone based solely on a phone interview or a videoconference meeting is something Hugh Morris said he has never done and never would.
Yet, Morris, executive director of a London-based business processing service firm, said that he has hired people he has never met in person but has interviewed using high-end video technology called telepresence.
“They really do appear to be across the table, looking life-sized,” said Morris. “It’s as good as meeting in person.”
By using large flat-screen displays, cameras placed behind the displays and high-quality lighting and sound, several firms, including high-tech stalwarts Cisco Systems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., are betting they can create video-based meetings in which it is possible to interact with people, no matter how far away, as if they were in the same room.
It’s an old quest. Since AT&T rolled out its first PicturePhone four decades ago, videoconferencing has fascinated engineers and underwhelmed customers. This time, the engineers believe they have it right, producing full-size, high-definition images of people who look you in the eye as they speak and whose facial expressions and body language can easily be read.
Developed at universities such as the University of Illinois at Chicago a decade ago, telepresence is starting to reach its commercial potential. The industry has about 650 high-tech meeting rooms in place worldwide, although that number likely will rise to more than 10,000 within a few years, said Howard Lichtman, who operates the Human Productivity Lab in Ashburn, Va., a telepresence consultancy.
Date: May 14, 2007