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Telepresence vs Video Conferencing

Telepresence vs Video Conferencing

Few companies today operate within a single space. In some industries, more than half of workers are remote.

82% of these workers say they need to collaborate with others to do their work; if over half of these people work off-site, your video conferencing room quickly becomes the most valuable piece of real estate at your organization.

Even if you already have a conferencing solution in place, upgrading to a system designed for your use and space has numerous benefits, from easier use and faster problem-resolution to improved productivity from distraction-free communication.

As AV technology evolves and improves, the options available on the market do too; today, there are hundreds of viable products and options which can produce highly functional conferencing solutions.

“Telepresence” is one such invention.

Telepresence – Sci Fi to Reality

Telepresence began as a science-fiction dream in the 1960s: what if you could attend meetings and interact with people as if you were actually there, but from anywhere on the planet? Since the 1990s, numerous breakthroughs in AV technology have made this idea closer and closer to reality.

We don’t (yet) have the option of projecting holographic images onto thin air, but we are getting remarkably close to creating the exact sensation of speaking to a group of people as if you’re all in the same room. With telepresence technology, participants in the conversation will look and sound as if they’re sitting right next to you.

Telepresence vs. Video Conferencing: What’s the Difference?

Telepresence conferencing provides the most high-definition experience possible during video conferencing. While “video conferencing” and “telepresence” are often used interchangeably, the underlying technology is slightly different.

Video Conferencing

Modern video conferencing provides crisp visuals and reliable, clear audio, over IP or internal networks.

While video conferencing works very well for many companies, one area where video conferencing can fall short is when presenting entire conference rooms of speakers with the same level of clarity you’d see if you were all in the same room. When participants are farther or closer to the microphone(s) and camera(s), most systems have a hard time portraying them with equal clarity.

Video conferencing solutions flatten whatever room you’re in – wherever that is – and portray it as is. When more than two or three people are participating in a video conference, it can quickly become difficult to distinguish who is speaking. They also require more end-user involvement in the operation, and can therefore also be more prone to glitches if improperly configured.

Telepresence

Telepresence conferencing provides the most high-definition experience possible during video conferencing.

“Telepresence” refers to tools which allow participants to feel as though they are actually in the same room as whoever they’re talking with.

One way to think about this is as a built-in, room-specific situation. Telepresence solutions take into account the dimensions, lighting, and acoustics of the space and replicates them accurately instead of just capturing data from a camera and microphone and reproducing it exactly.

Some solutions may replicate the appearance of the room on each side to create a more immersive experience – same chair in each room.

Telepresence solutions adjust the video to provide accurate, clear focus on each participant, even at a large conference table.

They also adjust the sound, with embedded spatial audio so that it’s always clear where sound is coming from. Instead of confusing sound coming from each participant on top of another, it becomes obvious who is speaking at all times.

In short, all people are clearly visible, and the focus doesn’t vary depending on how far they are from the screen. You’ll also hear them the same way you would in the room, instead of at varying volumes depending on how far they are from the mic.

Finally, telepresence doesn’t generally require as much end-user configuration, headsets, or other devices; this makes them easier to operate day-to-day, but also less portable.

Which is Better – Telepresence Solutions or Video Conferencing?

In general, you will see the best quality and realism using a telepresence solution.

However, if you plan to regularly change which rooms are connected, it can be extremely costly to set up telepresence solutions in each room you’ll be using.

Cost is the biggest drawback in a telepresence solution. Simple video conferencing solutions can often be installed for as little as 5% of the cost of a high-end telepresence solution.

Interoperability may also be an issue if you need to communicate with others using multiple different vendors or solutions.

Just like high-definition movies, you’ll only see the quality supported by the lowest common denominator. (Think of watching a movie from the 1960s on a modern television set, or watching a HD movie on a 1960s television). A video conferencing solution communicating with a telepresence solution will only present the maximum quality supported by the lesser-quality equipment.

You’ll still be able to communicate as long as there’s a basic level of compatibility, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck by pairing two telepresence solutions.

The bottom line is that if your business relies on closing distances and impressing clients with the visuals etc., telepresence will provide the most impressive and realistic, high-definition solution. However, if you operate in many locations or are a smaller business, video conferencing can fulfill many of the same needs.

Regardless of your needs, VSSi will work with you closely to develop a visually stunning and highly effective conferencing solution to bring members of your organization to you. Check out our recent installations here, or get in touch to schedule a consultation.