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Why meeting face-to-face still trumps videoconferencing

Rob Enderle | Feb. 29, 2016
Many have tried and many have failed to build a videoconferencing system that was affordable and practical. Logitech has recently come up with a system addresses the tech issues. However, columnist Rob Enderle writes that folks still prefer meeting face-to-face.

The sustaining problems

Every one of the initial assumed limitations to videoconferencing has been solved, but systems are still neither common nor generally used as the standard way for folks to meet from remote areas. People still prefer to get on planes.

Even though technical issues of cost, performance and connectivity have been solved, social issues remain. People still feel they are at a disadvantage when they are remote. Side meetings, individual breakouts and even social interaction after meetings are not addressed by current videoconferencing solutions.   We are trying telepresence robots (these allow a robot to be a mobile proxy for the remote staff member) to partially address this. But people find these robots to be somewhat off-putting and it often isn’t clear who is at the other end of the robot.  

One interesting concept was to put a display and camera into two remote door frames and allow side conversations to occur much like they would if two people were speaking through an actual doorway. This tested well, but it never rolled into a final product.  

Virtual reality to the rescue

The videoconferencing systems of today are faster, cheaper, easier to use and far more compelling than anything we’ve seen before. However, folks continue to avoid using them largely because those attending the meeting remotely feel disadvantaged and disconnected.  

Personally, the closest thing to a solution out there is high-quality virtual reality. Once prevalent and mature this should allow remote attendees to enter a virtual meeting/presentation space equally, regardless of where they reside. In addition, they should be able to interact as equals even walking away from the virtual table to have side conversations.   This solution will likely require a generation that is used to and accepts working in a virtual world for extended periods. But until we can either put people at the same level regardless of whether they are remote or local, or make traveling far less safe or acceptable, getting people in general to use these solutions instead of physical travel will not be successful.

 

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