More than Skyping but Still Can't Eat a Baloney Sandwich
Digital teleconferencing makes wonderful sense most of the time for any outlying employee who has responsibilities back home. It has been a boon to corporations for the past 5 years, at least as far as they have happier employees who don't have to charge airfare to the company bottom line. Those employees can be part time employees, which cuts down on employer payroll taxes. What employer wouldn't want such an arrangement? So, what's the bad news then?
Well, so far, digital technology can only solve one problem at a time, the one directly in front of the screen or the one digitally moved onto the observer's screen. In other words, skyping. Obviously, the teleconferencing employee can only be included in meetings that are near the monitor to which he or she connects. Of course, with wireless laptops, that person can be moved around, but only when that laptop is moved around which means a local employee must be commandeered for that job. That takes up unnecessary resources so what are the solutions?
Telepresence, to coin a term, or 'beaming' in the trade, is to use a concept similar to beaming information between computers. What this technique does is relieve the local employee from shepherding the guest to their appointed locations. By attaching a local monitor to a moveable stand, in which the transmitted controls from the tele-conferencer control the movement of the stand, the tele-conferencer is not hinged to anyone, and free to travel throughout the extant company of their own accord. The stand comes built-in with high gauge audio/video devices and controls, so they can hear and talk to any local employee as if they were standing right there. They can also move up and down floors (albeit via elevators) with ease to other sections of the company and 'walk' and talk with employees along the way. Casual, off the computer, conversation become possible. These are possible because the monitor is set more than 5 feet off the floor to give a more realistic presence in the room. One might think of it as a human segway transporter with wireless audio and video transmission. This does provide the tele-conferencer with the ability to read body language as they are higher than the average sitting individual. That is a key component of negotiations so this is not a trivial device or plan.
Obviously, all other methods of digital transmission cannot do any of this. However, all is not perfect as this allows the teleconferencing person to go with the team anywhere really, but they can only participate in verbal and nonverbal communication. They cannot order a ham sandwich for themselves. Several companies are currently making them with www.suitabletechnologies.com being one. They rolled out their first order in 2012.
It is the next generation of distance communication. Perhaps, soon, we will be able to order that ham sandwich after all.
I spent 10 years in academic publishing editing professorial research. The topics ranged from computer engineering to finance and social anthropology. It may have been the most fun I had at a job. I spent the next five years in the tech industry as a software engineer. Then I opened my own business educating young people. That was easily my greatest challenge and success. And then I started writing about all of it. That was 10 years ago. Part of that time I was also in the insurance industry to see how that worked. It has been quite a run....