Telepresence – is this the future for presentations and maybe education too?

I came across this fascinating presentation via Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen blog.  If you’re not reading Garr yet you should be. He’s coming to Sydney in a couple of weeks and I’m hoping to get there to soak up his Zen advice about presenting and engaging your audience.

The video is a Cisco presentation held in Bangalore, India. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, has Marthin De Beer, Senior Vice President of the Emerging Technology group,  appear on stage using Telepresence. Marthin was in San Jose at the time and appeared on stage as a holographic image. It’s very effective and opens our eyes to the potential use of technology like this. It would enable us to have face to face conversations, interacting as we would do in any real life situation except for the ability to physically touch the participant.

The Human Productivity Lab explains how they did it;

The Musion display technology is similar to the tech that telepresence provider Digital Video Enterprises uses for their seamless tele-immersion room.  A sheet of Musion’s patented, transparent Eye-liner foil is stretched across the stage.  The ultra high-definition image of Marthin De Beer and Chuck Stucki are captured in San Jose and the images of the virtual humans are then transported over the Human Network to be displayed in Bangalore.

Imagine the impact on conference participation. Keynote speakers wouldn’t have to jump on planes and travel halfway around the world. You’d just need a venue and your session leaders could particpate using telepresence. I’m going to be watching the NECC conference with interest; I’m not going, but I’m sure that I’m going to feel like a part of the event with participants ustreaming, live blogging, posting detail on Wikis and tweeting what they’re learning to their networks. In years to come will we even have to go to conferences like NECC, or will we be able to have a virtual presence using these new and innovative technologies?

There is a longer version of the Cisco Telepresence presentation that you can watch here.  John and Marthin talk of how this technology is going to transform business and the length of time it will take to get product to market. They also refer to the use of Wikis as a mass collaboration platform to enable creativity and innovation. Cisco has an internal ideas wiki that has apparantly led to new innovations taking root. 

Watching this has cemented my belief that it is necessary to empower our students with an understanding of these networking tools. We have many wikis in operation at our school now across many year levels. They’re still a new idea for many and some work better than others, but I think it’s essential that our students learn the nature of them and how to utilise them to best effect to benefit all. This is the business model they will be walking into when they enter their working life. Surely they are going to be a step ahead of the pack if they have exposure during their formative years.

Isn’t it our job as educators to prepare them for the future? We need to be making sure our schools are shifting into this 21st century. Let’s use the tools they are going to find when they start their working life. Let’s make school relevant.  

2 Replies to “Telepresence – is this the future for presentations and maybe education too?”

  1. Wow Jenny! Great to be reading your blog without having to slow down my computer and tunnel out behind the great firewall in China! Back home in sunny Ballarat.
    Imagine having you teach my class in China….or having our Chinese Liaison officer talk about the cultural revolution to your kids as she did to ours. It doesn’t get any more authentic and engaging than that!

  2. On the one hand this is exciting technologically, but on the other I think it misses a lot of the point. It’s already possible to collaborate and education online (see the Omnium Project – – that I’m involved in).

    Whilst I think it would be great for people to stop jetting around the world for 15 minute presentations at academic conferences to audiences comprising a handful of people, once you look past the Cisco ‘holograph’ system’s technological Wow! factor, it’s clear that it is predicated on a one-to-many lecture-style of teaching, which often isn’t terrible effective as a teaching approach. It’s a broadcast model based on a way of thinking about teaching that feels now very out of date – the prof imparting their knowledge to the masses. It’s as far away from a wiki as you could get.

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