Telepresence In Virtual Events With G2Events

June 15, 2010

In the mid-year report card on my 2010 virtual event predictions, I wrote about the first telepresence-enabled virtual event – the “Sustainability Virtual Summit: Smart ICT”, produced by G2Events.  Subsequent to my posting, I heard from Bruno Castejon, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder of G2Events.

“G2Events is the first Virtual event management services firm to truly integrate Telepresence”, notes Castejon. “We captured the Telepresence feed (high definition video and audio) straight out of the Telepresence racks and rendered the true Telepresence experience over IP in our virtual event platform.  It provided the Virtual Conference attendees a truly immersive experience, as if they were sitting in a Telepresence suite”.

Sustainability Virtual Summits

“Sustainability Virtual Summit: Smart ICT” had 8 sessions (out of a total of 35) that included Telepresence enablement.  Five of the eight sessions were round-table discussions with panelists participating from different geographic locations. G2Events is looking at physical events as well, where Telepresence can serve to bridge on-site and remote participants.

According to G2Events, there is a science behind the technology and process for bringing Telepresence into physical events, especially when one factors in cost and scalability considerations.  “G2events believes Telepresence is one of the most promising technologies to bridge the physical and virtual event worlds and optimize the value of a true hybrid model”, said Castejon.

TelepresenceWorld 2011

Hemisphere, the parent company of G2Events, and NAB recently announced a partnership to launch “TelepresenceWorld 2011” at the 2011 NAB Show (April 9-14, 2011).  Telepresence World 2011 will be a hybrid event, combining an on-site conference with a concurrent virtual event, “TelepresenceWorld 2011 Virtual Live!”.

Notes Castejon, “This will really be a showcase hybrid event demonstrating how Telepresence, in addition of being a very powerful collaboration solution, is also an impactful channel to efficiently reach out to large audiences for marketing purposes”.

Telepresence and Virtual Events

At Sustainability Virtual Summits, Telepresence-enabled panels had increased attendee satisfaction – delegates were most engaged with that format.  Castejon notes that the viewing “completion rate” for the Telepresence-enabled panels was by far the highest of all content broadcast during the show.  “They constituted the very reason why the average time at the event was over 2 hours and 50 minutes per attendee”, notes Castejon.

Bruno contributes two of his own predictions for 2010:

  1. Before 2010 is over, the technology integration will be mature enough to bring Telepresence Live into Virtual Event platforms.
  2. Before 2010 is over, the Virtual event platform leaders will release “full screen” capabilities for video content.  This will take the delegate experience even higher and make Telepresence-enabled panels even more enjoyable.

Hosted Telepresence

Think of it as “Telepresence as a Service” – you receive the benefits of Telepresence without the capital investment and hardware support.  “You can now show up at a public Telepresence facility (e.g. Cisco, Marriott, Taj, Starwood) nearby and rent both the room and infrastructure at a cost of $300 or lower”, notes Castejon.  The “Telepresence footprint” (both private and public) is reaching critical mass.  Castejon adds, “The number of rooms is now such that it provides proximity with most, if not all the main business hubs in the world”.

Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP)

At the InfoComm conference last week, Cisco announced “interoperability between Cisco and Tandberg TelePresence systems, and with other third-party systems, by integrating the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) on Cisco’s newly acquired Tandberg TelePresence Server”. Castejon says this “is a BIG deal”, since it allows one vendor’s system to interoperate with another’s (e.g. in theory, a session betweeen Cisco Telepresence and HP Halo systems).

While TIP does define interoperability at a protocol level, Castejon notes that telcos will need to follow suit on carrier interoperability.  “Existing private and public Telepresence deployments are on private networks. As of today, I do not believe these carriers have found a way to manage Telepresence roaming. If two parties use different carriers (e.g. one AT&T and the other BT), they still might not be able to communicate”, notes Castejon.

Conclusion

Telepresence is a technology to watch – it can facilitate a “virtual meeting” or “virtual event” on its own.  Combined with a virtual event, however, it can significantly expand its audience reach and power.  If you plan to integrate Telepresence into your virtual events, leave a comment below and let us know of your plans.

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A House Call Via Webcam

January 6, 2009

Flickr (neverland_rose)

Source: Flickr (neverland_rose)

While channel surfing during the holidays, I came across a re-run of House, the excellent medical drama on FOX.  In this particular episode, Dr. Gregory House was performing some patient triage over a webcam.  I thought to myself, “that’s a really neat application of video calling technology”.  Today, I read an article in the New York Times by Claire Cain Miller, “Doctors Will Make Web Calls in Hawaii”.  The company enabling this service is American Well, a Boston-based start-up who is pioneering the “New Healthcare Marketplace”.  The web call service in Hawaii works like this:

Patients use the service by logging on to participating health plans’ Web sites. Doctors hold 10-minute appointments, which can be extended for a fee, and can file prescriptions and view patients’ medical histories through the system. American Well is working with HealthVault, Microsoft’s electronic medical records service, and ActiveHealth Management, a subsidiary of Aetna, which scans patients’ medical history for gaps in their previous care and alerts doctors during their American Well appointment.

For patients insured by Hawaii Medical Service Association (American Well’s customer), the cost is $10 to use the service.  How affordable.  Back when gas prices were sky high, one might spend this same amount just to make the drive to the doctor’s office!  And in Hawaii, as the article notes, the islands are remote, which means that getting to see one’s physician may truly be a journey.

There are concerns, however, with such an approach:

However, some critics of doctor visits via webcam worry that doctors will miss important symptoms if they do not see patients in person. Others doubt that the poor and uninsured will have the broadband connection and webcams to use the service. .

“It’s a tool to help doctors do better, the way a stethoscope is a tool,” said Robert Sussman, a family practice doctor on Oahu. “You still have to use your common sense, your medical knowledge.”

I agree with Dr. Sussman – this technology does not replace the house call or doctor’s visit, but it does create a convenient, cost effective and carbon friendly “tool” for receiving health care.

Perhaps some medical insurers will create a network of Telepresence centers, where residents in certain locations (e.g. who live far from their physician) can travel a shorter distance to receive a “web call” via a high-tech, high definition solution. Of course, the doctor would need to use a Telepresence station on her end as well (so, some details need to be worked out!).

Or some day, perhaps you’ll beam a 3D representation of yourself into a virtual world and ask Dr. House to meet you there (for your check-up).  The possibilities await!


Interview with Vizitant Founder James Corbett on Video Communications

January 5, 2009

Vizitant Founder James Corbett (on left)

Vizitant Founder James Corbett (on left)

Q&A with James Corbett, founder of the not-for-profit organization Vizitant.

  1. Tell us a little bit about Vizitant? Sure. Vizitant is a project which aims to bring virtual presence services to socially marginalized groups of people like the elderly, carers, disabled and so on. By virtual presence I mean video-calling and other means of conveying the illusion that one is in the company of others.
  2. How do you facilitate technology use by the elderly or disabled?  We find the most user-friendly devices (e.g. Asus AiGuru SV1 and Eee Top) and configure them to be as simple to use as possible. That can be as basic as setting Skype to auto-answer and auto-start video. Or as complex as making hardware and software modifications.
  3. What would you like to see in video calling technologies that’s not yet available today? I think most of what we need is available today, but in the very high-end or corporate systems like Cisco Telepresence 3000. Which of course is totally beyond the budget of our target community. So what we need to see is the economies of scale in the marketplace that can push this quality of system, or something approaching it, into the consumer space. And of course that’s what Cisco is planning to do within the next couple of years. However, in the meantime, Skype and other low-end solutions are improving the level of experience dramatically for those with high quality webcams and dual core processors. Beyond that we need integrate more of the ‘virtual’ into the ‘presence’. While it’s great to feel like you’re in the same room as a remote relative imagine being able to feel like you’re both at a table together in a Parisian cafe. Or on a Caribbean beach. This is the kind of idea that might remind you of the ‘Holodeck’ on ‘Star Trek’ and that’s where, I believe, this technology can ultimately take us.
  4. Any plans to support multi-party sessions, sort of like a “town hall” meeting? Yes, we are in early discussions with an Irish company called OnlineMeetingRooms.com about using their multi-seat videoconferencing solutions for “town halls”.
  5. Do you envision applications of this technology for medical diagnosis and triage? Absolutely. There are trials ongoing at a hospital in Dublin, Ireland for a ‘robot doctor’, which is something like Skype Video on wheels, used in the early assessment and treatment of stroke victims.  Read more about it here: http://www.vizitant.com/2008/07/remote-presence.html.  And at the high-end there is HealthPresence – a specialized adaptation of Cisco’s high-end Telepresence system outfitted with medical diagnostic equipment and configured in a self-contained pod.  More info can be found here.
  6. Prior to Vizitant, what sorts of projects or technologies did you work on?  I spent a number of years with American multinationals in Ireland, such as Apple, Motorola and Analog Devices. There I worked in Software Test and System Administration roles. So I had varied exposure to a range of operating systems, network systems and so on. Experience which has taught me to look for the correct solution to a problem and not just “what we’ve always used here”.
  7. What’s it like running a business in Ireland?  In general it’s very good. Ireland made No. 2 in Forbes recent list of Best Countries for Business and that’s fairly well borne out in reality. However we are somewhat lacking in terms of Venture Capital and Angel funding options.

More Meetings From Your Desk

December 23, 2008

It’s a growing trend.  In 2009, you’ll be attending more and more meetings.  From your desk and desktop, that is.  In a Travel Procurement article titled “The Next Best Thing To Being There: Virtual Meetings Earn Their Rightful Place In Strategic Meetings Management”, surveyed travel buyers confirm that the trend is real:

Faced with an economic downturn and increased airfares, three-quarters of 230 U.S. travel buyers responding to a recent National Business Travel Association poll reported increased use of teleconferencing and Web-based meetings. Nearly 57 percent cited increased use of videoconferencing. More than 80 percent said the technology replaced actual trips.

Consider the travel policy at P&G:

“Our policy is set up so that virtual media must be considered if business objectives can be achieved,” said Diana Johantgen, service manager for Procter & Gamble’s new meeting, event and convention management team, who helped incorporate a virtual meetings program into that company’s strategic meetings management program.

This shift towards virtual meetings means good things for Cisco (Telepresence and WebEx), Nortel and HP (Telepresence), Citrix (GoToMeeting), Microsoft (Live Meeting) and many others.  While virtual meetings and telepresence may never reproduce 100% of in-person meetings, you can’t beat the cost efficiency and convenience.

Additionally, online meetings provide unique benefits, such as the meeting archive.   Ever need to schedule a series of information sessions or training presentations?  Why not do a virtual meeting (live) and record it – take the archive, edit it down (if needed) and then allow all reamining groups to view the session on-demand, on their schedule.  If the presentation is mandatory, the online meeting can be tracked to ensure that all required users end up viewing it.

OK, gotta go now.  A virtual meeting awaits!


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