On May 25, 1977 a science fiction film was released by 20th Century Fox that struck an unlikely chord in our collective consciousness. The Star Wars series went on to gross $4.5 billion at the box office and create a pop-culture phenomenon that has spanned three decades.
One of the speculative technologies that had the needle dancing on my I've-got-to-get-me-one-of-those meter was the R2D2-projected holographic image of Princess Leia pleading for Obi-Wan Kenobi's intervention. This seemed the ultimate solution to the communication challenge that has driven mankind since our ancestors first etched the family portrait on the cave wall.
The field of telepresence is knocking on George Lucas' trailer door as we speak. Cisco defines telepresence as "the science and art of creating visual collaboration environments, networks, and strategies that duplicate in-person meeting experiences as completely as possible." In other words, Princess Leia is coming to a meeting, presentation, or seminar near you. Check out this video of a telepresence demonstration staged by Cisco and UK-based Musion. By the way, John Chambers is in Bangalore and the other two guys are in San Jose.
Until recently, the only option for holding a meeting, conducting a seminar, or making a presentation was to fight freeway gridlock or surrender our liquids at the airport security checkpoint and show up in person, more than a little worse for the wear. Then along came Web applications like WebEx and we were able to accomplish many of these tasks without leaving our desks.
Soon there will be live holographic versions of each of us frenetically beaming into meetings around the globe. The next challenge? Figuring out how to tabulate frequent projection miles.
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