The use of video to communicate face-to-face and collaborate is nothing new, but the telepresence world has made some incredible advancements in changing the way we interact through the power of video. Here are a few impressive feats worth mentioning:
Virtual Office Hours
Distance learning is nothing new. Over the years, I’ve personally taken and completed several online courses. Whether it was a synchronous or asynchronous class, my favorite part was getting to know my classmates. Often times, these fellow students were participating in the class from all over the world.
However, one element of the experience seemed very impersonal. I never really interacted with my professors that much, with the exception of their recorded lectures or replies in the class forum. Like many others, I tend to learn better with a hands-on approach. Not having that connection with my professor was challenging at times.
Today, many educational institutions are looking to address this issue by harnessing the power of video. For example, one professor at the University of Michigan holds regular “virtual office hours” on Google Hangouts for his students. This allows the students to virtually visit with their professor, leading to a stronger personal connection and the ability to get questions answered in real time.
It is a fact that we know more about what lies out there in space than our own ocean floors… until now. Telepresence expeditions are helping scientists and researchers explore what was once unknown. In 2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists participated in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ocean Exploration research cruise investigating deep-sea areas off Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These were unknown and off limits areas prior to this mission. According to USGS.gov, “an interdisciplinary team of scientists working at sea and on shore examined the geology and biodiversity along various seafloor features at depths ranging from 300 to 4,500 meters. Twelve dives were completed with a dual-bodied remotely operated vehicle (ROV) system consisting of the ROV Deep Discoverer (D2) and the Seirios camera platform, both of which were launched and controlled from the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer.” Real-time streams were sent back to shore, allowing multiple scientists from various areas of the world and expertise (such as taxonomy, ecology, geology, and oceanography) to participate and collaborate.
In the video above, we see how the use of telepresence aided in the discovery of never before seen deep sea creatures!
Remote Field Trips
Imagine being able to visit the incredible Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. or The Louvre in Paris, or a trip to London to explore The British Museum. Perhaps for some it can be accomplished by taking a vacation, but what about those who are less fortunate? I wanted to save the best for the last here and put the spotlight on this:
School field trips can be incredible learning experiences, but unfortunately less mobile students are often left behind. Telepresence technology puts all students on a level playing field, allowing everyone to enjoy, and learn from, these experiences. Even as adults, our lives can be enriched by visiting these kinds of cultural centers, but not everyone can afford to fly around the world to see them all. As virtual museum visits become more common, more of us will be able to (at least virtually) visit these installations.
The world is a big and mysterious place. Fortunately for us, video technology makes it possible for us to traverse any distance, and unveil many mysteries. With video, the entire world becomes an accessible learning resource for us, without having to leave our living rooms.