Telepresence is the action or simulation of remote attendance. Although true stimulation of all five human senses from a remote environment is not possible with current technology, high-quality remote video and audio feeds are termed telepresence for purposes of research and product marketing. Additionally, work is advancing in providing remote stimulation of the senses of touch and to a lesser degree smell. Remote stimulation of the sense of taste does not seem technologically feasible for the foreseeable future.
The first known detailed description of a telepresence system is attributed to the science fiction story Waldo, published in 1942. Forty years later academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began actively developing practical two-way audio and video communications systems. Although far from the true-immersion experience described in science fiction, audio and video proved to be adequate for describing complex ideas and providing a sense of companionship. Therefore early telepresence systems marketed for consumer and business use centered mostly on the establishment of a sense of attendance for people separated by large distances in which arranging an actual physical meeting would be costly, time consuming, or otherwise impractical.
Today the field of telepresence is generally divided into two separate fields. The true science of telepresence, which simulates an immersive experience encompassing most or all of the user's senses, remains a subject of active research. Limited telepresence, usually restricted to audio and video, is often termed teleconferencing or videoconferencing. Teleconferencing continues to be actively developed by high-technology companies such as Cisco, and may encompass additional features such as sharing digital files, specifically-designed telepresence or teleconferencing rooms, and specialty hardware and software that maintain quality communications for prioritized senses under adverse network conditions.
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