Yesterday I had a meeting with a customer and we were video networked with participants in Vancouver Canada and London, England from Redwood Shores California. It took a good 30 minutes to work out all the kinks in the system, but we did get it all up and running. Compared with the futuristic visions of “Virtual Meetings” it really did not feel like the remote participants were fully included. They had a computer projection of what was displayed on my laptop, along with a video and audio feed of what was going on in the room, but I have a feeling the experience on the other end was entirely different than being in the room.
I have often wondered what it will be like to have virtual meetings in the future. Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” has lots of visions of what the technology will enable, but I am not convinced yet that a virtual meeting can ever match a face to face. I realize that eventually our 5 senses will be hard pressed to tell the difference between real and virtual people, but I wonder if those senses alone are all that are touched in meeting with another person. In many ways, I think that the development of virtual reality that match reality in every aspect (touch, taste, smell, sound and visual senses) will show us that there is more to the world than our 5 senses can perceive. What will be missing? Only time will tell.