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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Chris Lauwers, CTO of Avistar (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Dec 21st 2011

Sramana Mitra: Yes. However, they are at different stages of evolution. I think in terms of product road map, they’re all on this path that you just described. But I noticed from my own experience that WebEx does not yet have multi-skin video conferencing, for instance. Neither does Citrix. HD Faces is just starting out, but it’s not available in an event product, right?

Chris Lauwers: That’s correct. It’s still segmented and segregated even within the product offerings from individual organizations. But I think it’s clear what the long-term direction is. There’s a lot of product development that needs to get done to provide the seamless, integrated user experience with the skinable UIs and what have you. That’s a matter of product development on the vendor’s side. But also, I think, customer adoption is probably somewhat lagging for some of those products.

SM: Yes. Now, what is the future of telepresence in this world that we are discussing? If there is high-definition, multi-skin video conferencing on the desktop, to me, that’s a far easier user experience. It’s far less taxing on everybody.

CL: Right, it’s easier than having to go to a telepresence room and be away from your normal environment and away from all the data that you normally access. That’s a good point. It’s a bit of a joke, but I always tell people that the difference between telepresence and high-definition video conferencing  is furniture. What telepresence tries to do is create the illusion of everybody being in the same room at the same time. So, people go out of their way to make sure that the conference room tables look the same on both ends. You have eye contact by placing the cameras in just the right place. By using sophisticated audio systems, it sounds like people in different sides of their rooms come from the different sides of their rooms. It really is a lot about the experience more than the technology. But underneath, the technology that enables telepresence is not all that different from the technology that’s being used for high-definition conferencing.

If you take that one step further, high-definition conferencing, as you said, can now be done on regular PCs and laptops using off-the-shelf webcams. I think it’s only a matter of time before telepresence will be delivered using the same software applications that deliver mobile video, personal video, and desktop video but will continue to use some of the room enhancements and room embellishments to provide a better experience and the illusion of being in the same room at the same time.

SM: That’s an astute way of putting it. Really, from a content point of view, do we care? As long as there is multi-skin video – I think multi-skin video is an issue. It is not fully available today, but it will be. I think the product road map is very clear that multi-skin video on the desktop is going to be available. As long as that is available, do we really care about the furniture and the illusion of being in the same room? As long as we’re able to exchange content in a rich, high-definition, synchronized manner, the rest of it is kind of not so important.

CL: Right. There might still be some incremental value, but that value will be marginal, and it depends on what the application is. I think the areas where video provides the most value are where you need to get a feel for the personality of the person you’re talking to, the credibility, the expertise. It could be environments where you’re negotiating or interviewing. In those cases, having the better user experience might add value. But for most collaboration applications where people already know one another, you’re right, I think the desktop video experience is just fine. People won’t be able to justify spending incremental money to make things marginally better.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Chris Lauwers, CTO of Avistar
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