Christine Gardner: Can you tell us how Cisco use the telepresence system and what sort of benefits there are?
Oliver Hunt: The impact in terms of the way that it’s allowed us to collaborate with suppliers, to collaborate with partners – we had a session last week with our HR Director for UK-I and again the impact for our HR function has been huge. In terms, as I said, the quality is there – conducting interviews, conducting important meetings with external third parties has been key. It allowed us to reduce travel significantly.
Neil Simpkins: Perhaps you could tell us something about telepresence and how that kind of interacts with clients and their business models?
Oliver Hunt: Proctor and Gamble were one of the first companies globally to deploy, I think they deployed 30 or 40 units. So it’s allowed their global R&D teams, their design teams, their marketing teams to get together via telepresence to share concepts, to share designs, to share ideas, you know, and the net result for them in terms of things like time to market for product are massive.
Christine Gardner: Are there specific types of meetings for which the system is not appropriate, and why would that be?
Oliver Hunt: The more people you have – because it’s all about the experience – the more parties you have, the more chance there is for kind of disruption, it could become a little disjointed. So for those type of engagements we would maybe recommend reverting to the web-based tools that actually seem to work a lot, a lot more effectively.
Christine Gardner: Is this the sort of system you could see would be useful for The Open University? How could we use it?
Oliver Hunt: In terms of the ability to use this type of technology, in theatre-style working, to allow, you know, to allow students to collaborate real time in a session, you then have the ability to record these sessions real time and then distribute that recorded content out to users, regardless of devices that they are using – whether it be to PCs, to handheld devices, to other telepresence locations.
Neil Simpkins: How do you see things developing in the future with this technology – do you see it becoming something that you might see in the home or more broadly used?
Oliver Hunt: We very much see in however long, whether that be 5, 7, 10 years, telepresence very much becoming a part of the way that people do business – whether that be, you know, from a personal perspective, in terms of having telepresence units in the home, or whether it be more of a commercial, corporate level, and everything in between.
Neil Simpkins: Could you tell us something about some of the other applications outside of business and commerce? Perhaps something I don’t know, something about the healthcare application that we’ve heard about?
Oliver Hunt: We’ve actually launched something called Health Presence and we’ve actually got a Health Presence pod – it’s kind of a pod that actually is being used up in Scotland at the moment for delivering healthcare into rural communities. So where it’s not possible to get people to GPs or vice versa, we’re putting in these health pods – simple little pod with a number of medical devices built in to the pod, but the main feature there is they are using telepresence technology. The quality is such that it’s allowing healthcare specialists, doctors, to deliver accurate diagnosis based on the quality of the interaction. And fundamentally we are trying to change the way that healthcare is delivered in the twenty-first century.
Neil Simpkins: We’ve heard something about interviewing candidates for a symphony?
Oliver Hunt: We’re actually joined by Simon from South Bank Sinfonia today.
Simon Over: I’m Simon Over, a director of an orchestra called South Bank Sinfonia, and we’ve held auditions using telepresence. We had an afternoon in a telepresence suite here in London and at 3 o’clock we were in Madrid, 5 o’clock Glasgow, 7 o’clock New York and 9 o’clock Auckland, New Zealand. And we were able to audition two or three people in each of those locations.
A few years ago we had people travelling from all over the world for a fifteen-minute audition. And not only was that not green, of course, but we felt that people who could travel were the ones who could afford it, whose parents could afford it. By being able to hear people in their vicinity, we’re able to keep it open to absolutely everybody on ability rather than available funding.
Christine Gardner: What were the most important factors you considered when using telepresence for the auditions?
Simon Over: We had a sense of the people we’re hearing, what kind of people they are, and particularly what kind of musicians they are. Actually being able to interact with them, to hear them play, to ask them to play things again, to ask them to play things differently and to be able to talk to them about it afterwards is essential for us. And it’s remarkably similar to being in the same room, to breathing the same air, you feel you could actually touch the people on the screens. It’s important for us that we can see them and hear them very well, and of course the quality of sound is extremely good.
We reckon to have saved 20 tonnes of carbon. We didn’t fly 55 000 miles and we saved thousands of pounds, so we’re rather pleased with that. Musicians don’t generally work in such comfortable circumstances!
Neil Simpkins: Are there any limitations of this approach versus face-to-face meetings with them?
Simon Over: We did do a little experiment with them playing in time with my conducting, and although it’s almost immediate it’s just a fraction of a second not quite immediate, such that we couldn’t quite make that work. I think if that could become immediate then we could imagine rehearsing all around the world with different people, you know, a violinist here and a cellist there and the other person somewhere else. In terms of the audition process I would say it’s perfect.