Videoconferencing Gets New Lease of Life
I’m based in the UK but have worked for a US software company for a number of years, so I’ve got used to having meetings via videoconference on a regular basis.
The image quality of these meetings isn’t bad, but it’s not that great either, with images appearing slightly fuzzy, and often it’s difficult to see who is actually talking, or to see everyone clearly on the screen.
Well it looks like the videoconferencing technology could be starting to develop into a more real-world experience after reading an interesting article in UK IT publication Computer Weekly. HP have developed the Halo Collaboration Studio, which was first announced at the end of 2005.
Members of the videoconference see each other in life size images which are displayed on plasma screens. Participants can also share data on their laptop PCs using a screen mounted above these displays. The end result is very effective, giving the appearance that all participants are seated in the same room.
Some of the photos I’ve seen of this technology are so realistic that at first glance you wouldn’t notice it’s a videoconference. The technology is already in use by several large corporations including AMD, DreamWorks and PepsiCo.
I can see the advantage of this type of technology and it could persuade some people to consider whether a face-to-face meeting is really necessary. The obvious benefits being a reduction in business travel expenses which also has a positive impact on global warming, and the time saved by executives travelling to meetings being put to more productive use.
There will always be times though when you still need that face-to-face experience, maybe when closing out a top sales deal for example. This new technology isn’t cheap either. To equip a room costs around $550,000 plus there is an ongoing monthly service fee of $18,000, so any company has to be really serious before committing to such a large investment.
There are always going to be cheaper alternatives too, such as the traditional videoconferencing used by many organizations today, or even basic web cams.
I guess it boils down to the amount of business travel each company incurs. If this is a large proportion of overall expenses then the technology could prove cost effective. It also has a certain prestige element too. Imagine inviting prospective customers into your business and then conducting a meeting using Halo with other areas of the business around the globe. I’m sure it would convey a very professional image.