As communications technology advances and remote work and collaboration become more common, demand for telepresence technology is growing rapidly. The global telepresence market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 19.6 percent, reaching to $2.63 billion by 2022, Markets and Markets projects. Telepresence encompasses a growing range of technology, from web conferencing to holograms to robots. Here’s a closer look at what telepresence is and how it can make your virtual workplace more lifelike and engaging for your employees, business partners and customers.

Defining Telepresence

“Telepresence” broadly refers to a range of technologies that enable one person to appear present to another from a remote location. The most familiar type of telepresence technology is videoconferencing, and many people use the two terms interchangeably. More specifically, the term “telepresence” is usually reserved for virtual meeting software solutions that use high-end codecs with high-definition resolution and support high bandwidth, Telepresence24 says.

In addition to videoconferencing, telepresence also encompasses communications technologies that seek to go beyond audiovisual remote presence to an even more realistic experience that includes 3-D l immersion, movement and collaboration. Telepresence solutions in this category deploy technologies such as holograms, virtual reality and robots.

Creating a More Engaging Workplace Experience

Telepresence promotes more engagement by focusing visual and auditory attention on the conversation. Conversation partners are less tempted to be distracted by multitasking when you can see them, and are able pick up on body language that would go unnoticed over the phone. These features make telepresence useful for applications such as screening job applicants.

Telepresence also boosts productivity by making collaboration easier. The ability to share visual references remotely makes it easier for teams to work remotely without the need to waste time sending files or physical mail back and forth. They also can add persuasiveness to a sales presentation.

From Telepresence to Virtual Presence and Telerobots

The benefits of telepresence technology receive an additional boost from advanced applications that combine audiovisual communication with immersive experience and the ability to move and even manipulate objects from a distance. The Wall Street Journal suggests that remote meetings using virtual reality (VR) headsets could be the next big thing in videoconferencing by providing an unprecedented level of connectivity and engagement between participants. In a VR environment, conference participants can share not only a common video screen, but also a common 3-D virtual environment, providing for a greatly enhanced sense of mutual presence and collaboration.

Combining virtual reality with robots takes telepresence a step further. The Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton (DORA), for example, combines an Oculus Rift VR headset with a remotely-located robot. The robot streams a 3-D view of its surroundings to the user on the other end, and it also turns its head in synch with the user to give a fully immersive experience of being remotely present. This can enable meeting participants to literally see a remote location from a three-dimensional perspective. A manager could enjoy a 3-D vantage point for supervising the progress of a building project from a remote location without having to visit the site.