Alice in Tele-land


My first glimpse of Telepresence was in the old Star Trek TV series with Captain James T Kirk confronting the Romulans, Klingons and other aliens via a huge screen on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. And then I discovered holographic communications in the film Star Wars (1977) and the concept of Teleportation in The Fly and Star Trek.

These days I do a fair amount of inter-city travel and I can see that the ‘laptop generation’ is abstaining from travel. Apart from the downturn, the fear of Swine Flu infection is another reason for the reduction in corporate travel. Obviously, there are a lot more audio and video conference sessions happening in boardrooms and meeting rooms in Indian enterprises. During a recent visit to a PR agency in Bangalore for instance, my presentation was beamed live to their offices in other cities via video links.

Telepresence and video conferencing are certainly helping organizations cut down on travel costs. Wipro for instance, has been able to save close to 100 trips per year leading to approximate savings of USD 2.5 million. Proter & Gamble is another big user of telepresence solutions.

I saw (and liked) the Cisco ‘Human Network’ ads on TV. Cisco obliged when I asked for a telepresence demo. They organized a telepresence session at their Mumbai office with a Cisco spokesperson in Bengaluru. I sat in front of three large screens and after a few minutes of conversation it felt like the person at the other end was in the same room—sitting across the table. Spatial sound and high definition video can surely fool the brain.

I think the next big technology shift in communications will be holographic projection. A three dimensional image of you will be projected to another location, so that you can be there—virtually.

Beyond that it would be teleportation. If that become possible due to a big research breakthrough, the transportation industry would have to change its business model, completely. I am hoping my child experiences teleportation in her lifetime. Thankfully, she would be spared the agony of traveling in packed trains and buses.

And no, her name is not Alice.

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