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Immersive Telepresence: Microsoft To Add Hugs, Handshake, Even Anxiety To Teleconferences

January 9, 2013 | Telepresence Options
microsofthugs.jpgThe boring teleconference may become more touchy-feely if Microsoft has its way.
Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Staff Reporter at the Start
Microsoft has won a patent to add real hugs, handshakes, document handovers and even a touch of anxiety to virtual meetings.

The patent covers a variety of systems with separate components that can add or subtract features. Among them: a cultural component that blocks one person from sending culturally inappropriate feedback (a tap on the shoulder, for example) to another.

Zhengyon Zhang, guru of Microsoft's world of "immersive telepresence," and his research team won the patent for a system that adds "force feedback" to those static long-distance teleconferences.

The idea, Zhang said at a presentation on the subject, is to create all the feel, touch and sounds of a face-to-face meeting to trigger the same level of collaboration.

"This requires deep understanding of multiple disciplines," he said.

"Computer vision, graphics and acoustics are indispensable in capturing and rendering 3D dynamic environments in order to create the illusion that the remote participants are in the same room."

Video conferencing circa 2013 "leaves a great deal to be desired: mutual gaze, 3D, spatial audio, to name a few."

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