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Beyond teleconferencing, to the virtual meeting of telepresence

Cisco “recently completed a takeover in eight days (as opposed to the usual weeks or months) by putting lawyers in telepresence rooms instead of on aeroplanes.” Telepresence rooms, the Economist, Aug. 25, 2007 at 57, explains, enable attendees to feel hugely closer to attendees in the distant room than does old-school teleconference equipment.

I paraphrase from the article: People in telepresence meetings appear life-sized, and the tables and rooms at the two ends blend seamlessly because furniture and wallpaper are often identical. You feel like you are in the same room and can make direct eye contact with the other attendees, a feature which requires multiple cameras and enormous computing power. Delays in sight and sound are so short that the human brain does not notice them, so people can interrupt each other as if they were sitting across the table. When people speak, the sound comes from their direction. Yet, with all this immense sophistication, telepresences are simpler to get started than notoriously fickle and multi-step teleconferences.

Naturally, the rooms cost a pretty penny – more like several hundred thousands of dollars a room. Still, the article appeared a year ago and prices have probably dropped. Lawyers in-house will be able to benefit from this step-jump in communications technology.

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