Telepresence is light-speed travel

One technology I am excited about is telepresence; the new-fangled name for what we used to call video-conferencing. With large HD flatscreens and fast connections that allow the transmission of high-quality video over the Internet, this technology is maturing and will likely change the way we do things. High-quality telepresence has the potential to reliably simulate “being there”. In other words, telepresence enables light-speed travel.

If you have rich, directional sound and high quality video of a particular environment, you possess most of the inputs you would have if actually in that location. Of course, the other senses like touch, taste, and smell would be missing via telepresence. But, how often do you actively touch, taste, or smell the world around you? This could actually be an advantage! Send your senses and perceptions to visit far off places rather than your meat vehicle.

We experience the world mostly through sight and sound. This will be enough to enable many new realities and behaviors to emerge. Assuming it continues to improve, how will people use telepresence? Virtual travelling? Teleprostitution? Telemedicine? Centralized remote security guarding? Remote elder observation? Remotely operated taxi cabs?

Combine telepresence with the ability to move through and manipulate the environment and you have effective human-mediated telerobotics. Combine telepresence with head-tracking and you would have an even more convincing simulation of presence. It is important to remember that each time we create a mature technology it quickly connects to many other technologies to create new uses and chimeric results. There is a network effect in how products enable one another to do bigger things.

The next step is to create more immersive inputs including haptics and olfactory inputs as well as telerobotic avatars we can borrow to “travel”. How will this change things? I don’t know and maybe it won’t change a thing, but it is fun to think about.

Stole the above image from the Army article: Telepresence: Harnessing the Human-Computer-Machine Interface.

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