Telepresence and social implications

Yesterday marked the beginning of Institute for the Futures annual Tech Horizon conference. I have really been looking forward to this event since I got to meet so many visionary people at the last IFTF event.

Larry Smarr the Director of California Institute for Telecommunications & Information Technology was giving the first keynote tonight about telepresence and its social implications. And by telepresence he is talking about videoconferencing systems where the technology has intuitive interactions and the present difference between interactions face-to-face and a videoconferencing interaction will not be sensed – also called transparent telepresence.

He had some really interesting perspectives on processing power, storage capacity and bandwidth which will surpass human capabilities within the next 10-15 years and enable real time human level telepresence.

To give an example of his views of technology surpassing human capabilities is the eye-to-brain communication which is being done at about 1 gigabit/sec, a bandwidth speed introduced to the mass market some years ago but has yet to reach Internet Service Providers portfolio.

A possible social change with real time human perception level telepresence technology would be that humans have less real contact and would travel less. A scary forecast which I could see happen from a corporate point of view or the gaming room of teenagers chatting with friends, though studies has also concluded that the usage of current telepresence systems of remote interaction only encourages the drive to meet the people at the other end in real life.

If that study will reach the same conclusion when future telepresence systems gets similar abilities of real life human presence will be up for debate.