What is Telepresence?

Telepresence is a form of remote conferencing in which the participants appear to be physically present in the conference space. Body language cues like eye contact are easily transmitted and interpreted because of the fidelity, size, and position of the images. Both 2D and 3D telepresence have been employed as a means of making it seem as though a user is in a location when they physically are not. This is a technique intended to make collaboration feel more seamless and replicate the benefits of face-to-face communication. Typically, 3D telepresence requires a specially configured space in which to capture a 360-degree image that can then be inserted into a virtual set, and viewed from any angle, but high-definition displays, seamless integration with software and data presentation, and full-surround audio make even 2D telepresence a very immersive experience.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • With the second generation of Kinect (or similar technology) that enables 3D scanning of texture, telepresence projects can be more relevant (immersive, authentic) for communication between users present at different locations. Collective actions can be done more efficiently. - kaja kaja Oct 26, 2014
  • Telepresence can be useful tool to bridge the online-onsite experience. Robots with cameras can take viewers through first person experiences. Live events become scalable to new levels with live streaming capability in physical movement through as space while participants from all over the world login. Telepresence can make interactions with technology more comfortable as it is embodied in familiar contexts, forms and environments. Inanimate objects come to life through digital projection. These technologies should not be seen as virtual or replications but fully integrated in our sense of reality. - nealstimler nealstimler Oct 30, 2014
  • Telepresence has the potential to become an important tool for accessibility. Whether it is field trips for students who don't have time or money for transportation, or are simply too far away to visit, or people with mobility impairments, telepresence can break down barriers. - elizabeth.merritt elizabeth.merritt Oct 30, 2014
  • With Facebook's major investment in the Oculus Rift, I wonder if this entire category is about to undergo a foundational shift. Robots and lots of cameras sounds like fun, but imagine the ability to strap on the Oculus Rift and literally be sitting among your colleagues and/or within any virtual space imaginable, whether it be a 3D feed from an actual location or a designed environment. I'd look to the Oculus Rift to be a potential game-changer over the next few years - or perhaps a total flop! Either way, it's going to have an impact - and leads me to think that this arena is still in flux and not likely to be adopted widely in the near term. - dhegley dhegley Oct 31, 2014
  • Another perspective here.
  • Are we considering Oculus Rift "telepresence"???? Okay. I am really curious about it, and the EMP in Seattle is doing a show with it that opens in about a week. I think they'll have lines around the block. If they have solved the latency and vertigo issues, it could be huge, culturally. But will museums benefit? I don't know, honestly. Sciences museums certainly should, and I would hope that artists would do something interesting with the technology (Char Davies used to do amazing work along these lines)- weberj weberj Nov 3, 2014

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The description above is slanted toward teleconferencing, which I think is of limited interest. Mobile telepresence robots, that enable user(s) to navigate a museum's physical space are introducing a new utility (remote visits with two-way interaction) rather than just enhancing an existing platform. (Teleconferencing, at least in it's current form, only confers a slight advantage over simple voice communications.) - elizabeth.merritt elizabeth.merritt Oct 30, 2014
  • +1 to Elizabeth's critique that this should not be limited to teleconferencing. Immersive experiences in museum environments are of potentially greater opportunity. Think about the ability to go "inside" a Period Room virtually. We've been experimenting with a six-sided cube of GoPro cameras filming simultaneousy, allowing a user to experience viewing angles not possible in the actual museum (close up of ceiling tiles, viewing the interior of an historic automobile). - dhegley dhegley Oct 31, 2014

  • Another perspective here.

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • Telepresence can bring synchronous and real time interactions within museum spaces and programs to global audiences. Imagine a classroom miles away joining a conservator at work in the studio via a robot. Consider a live docent lead tour of an exhibition with constituents in an assisted living facility as they drive a telepresence robot following the museum interpreter. Have curators and lenders preview exhibition spaces when in the planning phases rather than using maquettes. More museum specific use cases will emerge through trial and implementation of telepresence tools. - nealstimler nealstimler Oct 30, 2014
  • I agree with Neal. Evidence is building that the materials that museums put up on the web drive interest in physical visits, but not everyone can follow through with travel to the site itself. Telepresence, in my limited experience, seems to be a meaningful bridge between online and onsite. - elizabeth.merritt elizabeth.merritt Oct 30, 2014
  • Agreement from me as well, although I'd like to imagine that this would not be limited to robots and drones. See comments above about wearables such as the Oculus Rift. - dhegley dhegley Oct 31, 2014
  • Another perspective here.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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