What Is the Connection between Telepresence and Virtual Reality?

The tools of telepresence and virtual reality are among some of the modern technological innovations that make it possible to engage in communication that is somewhat more personable and life-like, in comparison to older methods. While considered two different approaches, there is some connection between telepresence and virtual reality in that both methods seek to provide a real-time environment for people to interact using both voice and sound that is somewhat more realistic than videoconferencing. The end result is a sense that is closer to being physically at the same location than would be possible with some of the other communication and interaction tools on the market.

One way to get a feeling of how telepresence and virtual reality have some relationship to one another is to understand more about how each method functions. Telepresence makes use of several elements to create a more interactive environment for a meeting or discussion, usually combining audio and video applications to allow for the transmission of life-size images to and from each participant in the discussion. This differs from videoconferencing, which usually involves the ability to only view one individual at a time, or uses a series of small boxes on a screen to capture head shots. The look and feel of a telepresence approach is more along the lines of sitting across the room from other individuals, and being able to easily interact based on facial expressions and voice inflection in a real-time manner.

One of the similarities between telepresence and virtual reality is that it is possible to achieve this same level of collaboration, although the background and even the appearance of the participants does not necessarily have to be realistic. For example, with a virtual reality environment, the meeting participants may choose to set their virtual meeting on a beach, an ancient castle, or any other type of setting they prefer. In terms of the appearance of each participant, they can opt for the creation of an avatar that bears a strong resemblance to the real person behind it, or go with an avatar that has whatever look each participant wishes to project. The ability to engage in conversation or even control the movement of the avatars to engage in virtual physical acts is relatively simple, assuming the necessary software and equipment is available to all parties.

With both telepresence and virtual reality solutions, ongoing research and development is leading to enhancements in how each product functions. Along with the ability to use realistic imaging or create avatars, the research is also working toward reliable features that not only make it possible to share audio and visual information, but also to include data that appeals to other senses, such as the sense of touch and smell. It is not unusual for telepresence and virtual reality technology to be used in a number of situations today, ranging from holding virtual business meetings involving participants from multiple locations to enjoying gaming options with people who are located around the world.