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?

  • There are numerous opportunities to do tours or offer other museum experiences through this technology. As museums begin to embrace the online "virtual visitor" in the future, we will see all kinds of museum use this technology to connect with people who cannot physically come to the museum. - ortiz ortiz Feb 16, 2016
  • I think this could become a crucial concept for museums to consider and perfect. There are so many reasons that people need to or choose to be a "virtual visitor" such as physical limitations (disabilities or illness) or economic issues (not being able to afford overcoming the expense of a cross country trip) and Telepresence could be a part of a dynamic enriching solution for these visitors. Sadly many museums seem to only focus on the guests that come through the door because leadership keeps demanding higher attendance numbers and short sightedly they don't include "virtual visitors" as part of those numbers. - heathermarie.wells heathermarie.wells Feb 28, 2016 - jfoley jfoley Feb 29, 2016
  • Telepresence, especially in combination with robotics, strikes me as an interesting way to allow access to delicate archeological or natural sites where high numbers of human visitors endanger the site. Imagine a group tour with a multi-headed robot, each head controlled by a different visitor?- chuck.patch chuck.patch Mar 17, 2016

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

  • I think we should be thinking about the relationship between telepresence and VR headset technology, and whether there is potential for a blending of them. Just a thought. - weberj weberj Feb 27, 2016- margaretsternbergh margaretsternbergh Feb 29, 2016
  • I would also suggest the relationship between telepresence, VR, and Robotics. I think one of the great things about the report is often thinking about how the technologies can be combined to create super solutions. Looking back at previous Museum reports you can think about combining BYOD, with a mobile app, that integrates location-based services - its a powerful super solution. - heathermarie.wells heathermarie.wells Feb 28, 2016- chuck.patch chuck.patch Mar 17, 2016 and Drones!

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

  • It will require us to think about "visitors" in new ways. Someone may never come to the museum IRL (in real life), but may visit virtually through technology like this. People are already growing used to access everywhere. Museums will begin to lead culture by offering these experiences. In time, the virtual visit will be as important as the IRL visit. Educators will become comfortable teaching through these environments. It will be a way for museums to connect to larger audiences. Smaller museums could larger audiences through this technology. Physical size will no longer be as important of a factor as how you offer access. Access will be open to those who have physical disabilities. - ortiz ortiz Feb 16, 2016 +1- heathermarie.wells heathermarie.wells Feb 28, 2016
  • I agree with Heather and ortiz here. I think virtual visitors will become a growing and vital sector of the overall museum visitor. However, I struggle with Telepresence necessarily being the answer. In certain circumstances I think it would work well and in others not so well. The logistics I think will be important to consider- who is being telepresenced (is this a word) where? Having a 3D hologram of a docent beamed into a classroom would make for a much more dynamic situation. Having students in a space with 3D projects of for example a gallery space would be another natural application. However, is it the best way to have a virtual tour? They won't be able to get closer or farther away from the objects. Instead, a museum experience becomes part of a larger fabric of their digital world- the vital nature of object-based learning becomes less valuable.- margaretsternbergh margaretsternbergh Feb 29, 2016

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

  • The San Diego Air & Space museum is using telepresence Beam "robots" to offer tours to those who don't have access due to distance or physical limitations. The Tate did an experiment with these kinds of robots while the museum was closed (after hours) and let people from around the world have a chance to explore the museum through this technology. - ortiz ortiz Feb 16, 2016
  • Another perspective here.

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