What is video conferencing, or better yet, what should video conferencing be? To some it is a laptop and webcam. To others it is big displays, big installations and big budgets. What is it to me? Having a meeting. In my mind I’ve always tried to approach video conferencing solutions from the perspective of those who are in face to face meetings all day. This is what we are trying to recreate, right? We should keep this in mind when we’re developing products, no matter if we are a hardware company, a software company, or both.
Think about your last face to face meeting. Now think about your last video conference. How different were they? Face to face meetings are much more dynamic than video conferences. Ideas can be instantly shared and people can casually banter back and forth. How much of this banter happens during a video call? Not much. Due to your setup, bandwidth, equipment, etc, you probably don’t have this luxury.
My last video conference had the image of myself on screen (local view). I don’t typically have a large mirror present in a face to face meeting though so I can keep checking my hair (or reminding myself that I don’t have any). The last call also made whoever was talking bigger on screen. I don’t recall a time in any face to face meeting where I walked up to whoever was speaking so they appeared closer to me.
Video conferencing needs to be a replacement for face to face meetings and this should be our goal as product developers. I don’t care if it is on a 10” tablet or a 100” television, we just need to be able to have a meeting.
It’s all semantic. If that’s how you define video conferencing, please compare & contrast with “Telepresence.” Now, define “desktop telepresence.” These are different, yet related things, and many people muddle them all together for the sake of easy marketing.
TelePresence (note the P) has become a watered down term for video conferencing. It used to mean what “immersive telepresence” now means and that is traditional definition of life size images, fixed cameras providing eye contact and a large field of view to give you as much of a sense as possible that you are in the same room as the far end. I don’t recognize the term “desktop telepresence” because it’s an oxymoron. My main point is that no matter what you (want to) call it, all we’re doing is trying to replicate a meeting and product vendors should recognize that.