At my current job, which I love, there is something that I really don't love. Currently, I live just far enough away that I can't make it into the office every day. The commute is about 2 hours each way. Therefore, I find myself often on a variety of technologies, such as WebEx, Google Hangouts, or perhaps the coolest (or possibly weirdest) a Double Robotics’ robot.
Unfortunately, all of these still fall far, far, short of the real thing: being there in person. The biggest problem, in my mind, is audio quality, followed by video quality. Slide shows can be transmitted fairly easily in high fidelity through screen sharing, which is why video isn’t quite as important, in my view.
Audio is so important, because that is usually what we are using to communicate with in meetings. When there is a meeting of 7 people, and you are the sole individual trying to listen in over the wire, so much information is lost. People who talk quietly, subtle verbal gestures, echoes muddying up the signal. It seems typical that I only absorb maybe 50% of the conversation. It is very frustrating. It makes me wonder - why can’t we have a better microphone?
I don’t know anything about audio technology, but would it be possible to create a device that can accurately capture and transmit audio in a way similar to the way the human ear picks it up? What if we created a device that captured many channels of audio data, and mapped them directly to a pair of headphones designed specifically for that capture device? Would that be a path for creating real audio telepresence? What I want is to be able to hear a group conversation in the same way that I hear it when I am physically there.
There are a number of companies working on telepresence, with Cisco (whose products I have not tried, due to them being so expensive) and Double Robotics being the ones I am aware of. There is still a lot that can be done. Who is going to make affordable high quality telepresence?