Telepresence Marketplace

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Telepresence Marketplace

by Faulkner Staff

Docid: 00011515

Publication Date: 2002

Publication Type: MARKET


Telepresence is a set of technologies that make a person feel as if he or she
is present in a different location through the use of video, audio, and Web
conferencing. Telepresence takes simple videoconferencing to a new level and brings collaboration to a variety of devices, including mobile handhelds, allowing the conference to move from the boardroom to any location. This report focuses on what constitutes a telepresence experience, the major players in the marketplace, and the key decision points when considering a purchase.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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The term telepresence was first coined in 1980 by Marvin Minsky, an MIT
professor, to describe the manipulation of real-world objects by remote

Videoconferencing Technology Tutorial

Microsoft researcher William Buxton used the term to define what is more
widely known as telepresence today. The first product to be labeled a telepresence product was Microsoft’s NetMeeting, released in the mid-1990s. NetMeeting included video, voice,
whiteboarding, and application- and screen-sharing technologies.
Videoconferencing vendors such as Polycom and Tandberg, now part of Cisco, improved the
audiovisual experience, and Cisco Systems and HP took the technologies
to a new level, redefining telepresence.

Telepresence systems are designed
to give users a realistic sensation of being present
in the same meeting space as the people with whom they are interacting. A full implementation provides enough sensory stimulation – and not necessarily just visual and auditory stimulation – to create an
experience that approaches an in-person presence. Telepresence delivers savings on hard costs and executive
time that are consumed by business travel, but offers other benefits as
well. By extending the ability to engage and collaborate easily and often to
all levels of an organization, teams can coordinate their activities more
fully, eliminate duplication of effort, enhance productivity, and engage with
peers in a personal way that contributes to quality, innovation, and
competitiveness of the products and services an enterprise offers. Telepresence is also an effective tool for communicating corporate
culture and vision, and creating and maintaining personal relationships with
peers, partners, and customers that are essential to sustaining
high achievement.

In addition to being sophisticated, flexible, and rapidly expanding, telepresence offerings
are also many and varied and embrace a range of scales and budgets. For this
reason, finding the best fit for a particular use or set of uses
requires research of available systems, analysis of telepresence roles
in business processes, and an understanding of the total cost of

Today, the major manufacturers of telepresence solutions are Cisco, Poly,
and Huawei.


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Real-time, productive team collaboration can be a key competitive advantage in
complex service- or product-centered enterprises. A widely distributed workforce makes
collaboration cost- and effort-intensive, involving traditional business travel
and often limiting person-to-person
interaction to the topmost levels of an organizational hierarchy. By contrast,
immersive telepresence meetings and conferences eliminate much of the need for
typical business travel and encourages broader participation in
the collaborative processes. Creating relationships and empowering collaboration
among people at lower levels of the organization who have key operational and functional roles streamlines the development of new products and services;
grooms and mentors team members to grow into new roles and
responsibilities; and creates transparency and accountability throughout
distributed business units by increasing the frequency, richness, and quality
of communications. 

By employing a mix of
advanced technologies, a well-chosen telepresence system provides a means
of cultural transfer and management, and a means of capturing and reviewing the
dynamic creative process of problem solving and strategizing. Enterprise adopters of telepresence technology are looking to
realize bottom-line paybacks by using the technology
to better integrate, manage, and use their employees. Key telepresence
benefits include:

  • Faster time-to-market for new products and services, owing to improved
    team coordination and a reduction of redundant efforts
  • Reduced travel costs
  • Reduced impact of frequent travel on individuals, providing better
    employee productivity
  • Improved environmental management through reduction of overall carbon
  • Increased transparency of corporate governance and decision making
  • Provision for business continuity if operations are disrupted at one
  • Increased collaboration outside the conference room via desktop and
    mobile conferencing

Improved Conferencing Technology

The defining differences between telepresence and earlier generations of
videoconferencing are technological and aesthetic. Telepresence
installations use the best and highest commercially available video and audio
technologies in order to enhance the immersiveness of the experience.
Technology fundamentals of a telepresence system include the following features and

  • Video Compression and
    High-Performance Codecs (COder/DECoder)
    – The use of better video
    compression and codecs allow for better use of bandwidth. High-performance algorithms make
    it possible to record and transmit very high-definition images and sound by
    massively compressing data. This is important because a good user experience
    demands that not only are image and sound natural, rich, and nuanced, but also
    that there is no latency in redrawing images and lag time when people are
  • Ability to Use,
    Adapt to, or Provide Control over External Networks
    – Telepresence systems are
    necessarily subject to the constraints of external network
    environments and the potential for delays, retransmissions, and corruptions of
    data streams that are a matter of fact in the real world. Data
    for a given telepresence session may cross several network domains in transit
    between endpoints, so network adaptability and fault tolerance are critical
    to a high-quality user experience.
  • Low Bandwidth Utilization – Related
    to network adaptability, a telepresence system that uses public networks
    must have a light footprint in order to achieve transmission throughput that
    will allow a consistently immersive user experience. Minimizing
    bandwidth demand effectively protects the telepresence data stream from
    delays and reduces the likelihood of corruption and subsequent
    retransmission of packets.
  • Session Initiation
    (SIP) – SIP is a real-time, live communication signaling protocol, widely used for initiating
    and terminating multimedia communication sessions over the Internet. It can
    be used for two-party or multi-party conferences, and can include one
    or more media streams. It is a key interoperability feature in situations
    where telepresence systems from more than one vendor are in use.
  • Low Delay Audio
    – Various proprietary codecs are used to record, compress, transmit, and replay
    audio, but AAC LD is considered to be an excellent choice for telepresence and similar applications, so most proprietary
    systems are
    compared to AAC LD for purposes of performance analysis. AAC LD codes
    both music and speech signals with equally good quality, but, unlike most
    speech-only coders, quality improves as bitrate scales up, which means that
    at high throughput, transparent quality is achieved.
  • Low Latency – Latency is a humanly perceptible delay
    between input being processed and the corresponding expected output being
    realized. Latency is the enemy of immersive experiences, and has been studied
    extensively because of its impact on multi-user, networked computer games.
  • Human Engineering – Anticipating and accommodating
    predictable human behavioral and perceptual issues is fundamental to creating
    an immersive telepresence meeting experience. Echo cancellation
    prevents annoying and painful audio feedback if someone in the meeting is
    using a mobile phone. Eye height and life-sized video display of remote
    conversation partners is key to creating the sensation of personal presence
    and eye contact. Systems deployed in meeting rooms require precision
    acoustics, lighting, camera angles, and the use of ergonomics.
  • Mobility – While the most immersive of system deployments,
    sometimes called life or lifelike implementations, are done using
    customized conference locations, today’s telepresence systems also include
    the ability to access a conference from the desktop and handheld devices. The quality of the experience using either
    desktop or mobile access is not as high as actually sitting in a
    well-designed telepresence room, but helps to provide access for a
    distributed workforce.
  • Telerobotics – Not always recognized as a part of telepresence,
    most vendors classify telerobotic applications such as remote surgery as a
    vital use of telepresence. With remote surgery, crystal clear video and
    audio are mandatory and delays in communicating with the robotic devices
    performing procedures could be harmful. Thus, top-shelf telepresence systems
    are a necessity.


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According to a report from Verified Market Research, the global telepresence
market is expected to increase in size from $1.27 billion in 2018 to $5.13
billion in 2026. Reduction in employee travel and the demand for robotic
telepresence are the key drivers for the market. 

A Niche Market

After years of up and down growth, analyst Thomas McKenna believes that
telepresence has evolved into a well-established niche market.
analysts have predicted that telepresence rooms would become obsolete; but this
is clearly not the case, immersive video conferencing systems still serve a
niche in the enterprise video conferencing space and will continue to do so for years to come."1


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Holographic Telepresence

Holographic technology, which gained prominence in films including Star
and Avatar, may just be the next big thing for the telepresence
market.  Holographic telepresense systems project lifelike, real-time 3D
images of individuals and objects complete with audio, in a room. These images
are captured, compressed, and transmitted over a network where they are then
decompressed and projected using laser beams. This makes it ideal for business


As telepresence strives
to achieve recognition as a technology that can supplant the need for travel
and deliver the equivalent of face-to-face meetings, the next technology being
sought is
a believable simulation of touch. Technologies that
accurately and believably mimic touch will enable next generation hands-on telepresence systems that remotely control
sophisticated robotics for medicine, manufacturing, and delivery of
specialized services. The science of creating sensory stimulation that mimics
touch is known as haptics.

Haptics, or user interface feedback mechanisms that rely mainly on touch
sensations, are a key area of research and development for telepresence and
are also a part of telerobotics. One
reason touch is considered a critical element in the evolution of
telepresence is that among human sensory systems, it is uniquely capable of
simultaneous input and output. On a certain metaphorical level, we generally
consider touch to be the essence of personal experience. For example, shaking hands with someone conveys many kinds of information,
not merely or even primarily the feel of skin. Fundamentally, touch amounts to
communication via a direct experience. For telepresence to grow beyond its
current commercial applications in enterprise conferencing, medical
intermediation, hazardous environment workforce displacement, and military
technology, providing a high-quality haptic user experiences is key.

Immersion Corporation, one of the leading providers of complete,
programmable touch-based user interface components, has had its technology
used in over three billion devices. Immersion’s haptic solutions and components are
currently used in a variety of products and services in such markets as
automotive, gaming, mobile, medical, and consumer electronics. 

Telepresence Robots

A telepresence robot is a remote-controlled, wheeled device with a display to
enable video chat and videoconferencing. The telepresence robot market is
expected to increase to $312 million by 2022, according to Report Linker, a
market research firm. 

The Global Telepresence Robot Market – Forecast & Analysis, 2016 – 2022
report from Research and Markets reveals that the market for telepresence
robots is developing rapidly. The telepresence robot is the
next stage of evolution beyond stationary video conferencing
, taking advantage
of the existing telecommunications infrastructure as well as recent advances in
robotics technology.

Several application markets are widely embracing the telepresence robot
sector, including:

  • In healthcare, patients have access to leading medical specialists from all
    over the world.
  • For teachers that cannot be in the classroom or students who are
    not mobile, they can now be in the classroom without actually being there.
  • In dangerous situations, robots can be used in places immediately –
    consider an area where a terrorist bomb has detonated – to reach injured
    people quickly and without putting others in harm’s way. 


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When choosing a
telepresence system, it is best to become familiar with the variety
of systems that are available. This can be done by using managed services until
a determination can be made as to
which system performs the functions that are desired. Here are some of the considerations that contribute to a fully
immersive user experience:

  • Life-size, Realistic Presentation Considerations here include
    image size and eye height of displays, technology that provides apparent
    eye contact acuity, ability to cleanly and fluidly depict motion with
    little or no latency, and photo-realistic color quality so that nuances
    of personal appearance (hair color, eye color, skin tone, clothing)
    are accurately and naturally depicted.
  • Studio-quality Recording Environments – Telepresence spaces are essentially video
    production facilities. To create an immersive experience, it is
    necessary to exercise precise control over the video and sound recording
    environment. A significant part of the cost of acquisition of a
    telepresence capability comes from building custom or modifying existing
  • Create the Illusion of a Single Space – Telepresence requires a
    certain amount of implicit acquiescence on the part of the viewer – a willing
    suspension of disbelief. A well designed system simply makes this easier for the
    meeting participants. Key considerations in creating an immersive
    experience are: keeping the hardware and
    software that create the environment as far offstage as possible, and doing
    everything possible to make the separate hosting sites merge
    into a single, visual environment when linked by video. This means that
    physical environments should be identical but also that the quality of
    service (technology, transmission rates, lighting, and acoustics ) should
    be equivalent across sites.
  • Various Access Methods – While an immersive experience requires
    users to be present in a room set up for telepresence, there will be users
    who cannot be present for a myriad of reasons. As much as possible,
    determine whether mobile access, desktop access, or non-telepresence small
    rooms should be able to access the conferences. Planning in advance for means
    to include partners, mobile workers, or a dispersed workforce can save money
    later on.
  • Security – Just like any other technology, telepresence systems can
    be easily attacked or infiltrated if they aren’t properly protected. It’s
    critical to make sure products are always running the most up-to-date

Make sure the decision to
buy is based on a full picture of total cost of ownership of the systems.
Consider these factors:

  • Upfront
    – Include system acquisition, preparation or construction of appropriate
    space, including a site evaluation study to determine needs, size and
    necessary modifications. Integration with existing scheduling and
    decision making tools.
  • Recurring Costs – Include
    IP Overlay networks, a telepresence Community of Interest (CoIN)
    connection, conference help desk staffing, scheduling and
    troubleshooting support staff, and equipment maintenance and
    administration for self-hosted systems or rackspace and bandwidth
    charges for co-located infrastructure.
  • Significant Limited Duration Operational Costs – Include acquisition consulting, training,
    project management as systems ramp to full implementations, and follow-up
    audits of usage, uptime, and user satisfaction.
  • Customer Service Costs – As with any new technology, there will
    always be issues that arise. The last thing any company wants is to feel
    stranded with little to no assistance when a hiccup occurs. Making sure that
    vendor support is available can help to alleviate problems later on. 

Ease-of-use should be a factor when
making a purchase. Obviously, having an effective telepresence solution is the
ideal goal, but if it’s problematic or difficult for employees to work with,
it’s not going to be the answer. Remember that not everyone using the system
will have advanced technical skills, so the more user-friendly the system, the

It never hurts to remember that telepresence is intended to help individuals
work together more cohesively and accomplish tasks successfully – even if they
are located on different continents. Sandeep Mehra, general manager and VP at
Cisco, said, "Successful offices are functional tools that bring technology
and people together so they can do their best work… Investing in smart spaces
that pivot on technology creates a natural increase in productivity and
collaboration. No matter what your space looks like, when solid technology… is
part of the environment, employees can surface the right ideas at the right
time. Create an environment where people, space, and intelligent technology come


1 Thomas
McKenna. "Immersive
Telepresence Continues to ‘Wow’ the Enterprise." Viju. April 1, 2016.
2 Rob Scott. "UC Trends 2020: IP Phone and Headset
Strategies." UC Today. November 29, 2019.

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