Video conferencing has been available as a business communications tool for nearly three decades, but languished for much of this period in favor of business travel and direct, personal contact. Uneven user experiences and a lack of video conferencing capabilities with others outside of one's own business slowed the adoption of video conferencing. Things have changed.
Most would agree that travel has lost much of its appeal in the last several years. At the same time, technological improvements in the capability, accessibility, and user experience have made video conferencing much more viable for many business decision makers and end users. Strong efforts from major companies like Cisco, Microsoft and IBM to promote media-rich productivity tools are also boosting the prospects for video conferencing. The Holy Grail at the end of the video conferencing trail is "telepresence."
Definitions of telepresence vary but all describe a conferencing solution that offers users the sense of being fully involved with others in a live, remote location. This capability will ultimately lead to the ability to manipulate physical elements and interact as if at the other location. Current solutions give the users a feeling of being in the same room with remote participants in a real-time, life-sized environment. Emerging applications exist in the security/emergency services, medical, education, and entertainment fields among others.
Even without this level of sophistication, video conferencing is gaining a foothold as an important part of everyday communications in the business environment. Desktop, as well as room-based video conferencing applications are increasingly integrated with unified communications capabilities, providing users significant productivity and collaboration capabilities.