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Thanks to VR, Your Next Meeting Might Be With Robots

September 16, 2015 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Peter Rubin / WIRED

IF YOU'VE SEEN one slide deck in a meeting, you've seen them all. Unless, that is, you're a featureless robot, and everyone else in the room is a featureless robot, and the person talking you through the presentation is a featureless robot. Not in that Mondays-amirite office-humor way, either; I don't mean corporate drones, I mean literal featureless robots.

Oh, and the meeting room is perched on a hilltop surrounded by nothingness, and the dozen or so robots in the room are VR avatars for people who physically speaking are all over the country (and even as far away as Italy). This is a press conference--or product launch, or presentation, or robot uprising, or whatever you want to call it--for virtual-reality company AltspaceVR, to announce that it's finally cracked telepresence for the Samsung Gear VR mobile headset.

Social applications have been one of the toughest puzzles for VR engineers to crack for a host of reasons: networking, avatars, real-time interactions, voice and video throughput, and all kinds of things that your computer or phone would rather not have to worry about while it's rendering a fluid virtual environment. That being said, if you've ever had to attend a tech conference or fly across the country for a two-hour meeting, the promise of being able to skip the travel in favor of a virtual confab is an attractive one. What those of us in this room are experiencing is the very first glimmer of that future.

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