SAN JOSE, Calif.-If Cisco Systems and its effervescent president and CEO, John Chambers, are right-and they have been right a lot of the time-the company's new TelePresence system or something like it will indeed become a killer app for business, education, government and even consumer use.
On the surface, TelePresence doesn't sound like it would be that big a deal. TelePresence is simply a set of video conferencing screens large enough to show extremely high-definition, life-size images of people placed at the same table with you-so that it appears they are actually in the room.
In fact, your meeting guests in London, Singapore or wherever are so "in the room," that sometimes you forget and want to offer them refills of their lattes.
I was invited to experience TelePresence at the launch a couple of days ago. I have to say it was very impressive. The video and audio was flawless, and there was no latency that I could ascertain. The leader started and stopped the meeting with one button on a special telephone readout.
What could be easier than that? The most difficult thing, it turns out, is to simply get all the meeting participants in the two rooms to sit down at the appointed coordinates.
So, with the technicalities not getting in the way, you find yourself focusing quickly on (and not necessarily in this order):
A) the business at hand;
B) whether your hair is combed; and
C) the subtle expressions made by people around the table during conversation that are so important in making judgments about people.
Don't bother to deny it; we make judgments all day long. Is he telling the truth? What is she not telling me? Does he believe what I just told him? That woman's got quite an attitude! And so on.