Exploiting the Tele- In Teleconferencing
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Until recently we have been involved in the development of a “hi-fi” teleconferencing system. The system is meant to assist geographically distributed groups in holding teleconferences that are as effective as if all of the members were holding a more conventional meeting in the same room. The approach has been to utilize relatively sophisticated communications and computer technology to provide adequate bandwidth among the conference participants, good automated control procedures, powerful tools for recording the conference, and automated speaker aids. Problems of choosing the bandwidth for teleconferencing systems are roughly of two types. First, there are cost-effectiveness issues associated with the use of voice, pictures, video images of the faces of participants, and so on. Second, there are effectiveness issues regarding the importance of small body movements, precise tone of voice, and other subtle communication clues. Control procedures that might be built into the system include provisions for conference roles, such as a chairman, an electronic agenda with automatic speaker recognition and scheduling, and so on. Automated recording procedures are a challenge requiring the construction of structured minutes that can be searched like data and that recognize, for example, off-the-cuff remarks. Speaker aids include an electronic blackboard and pointer, an electronic slide projector, provisions for joint document production and joint data retrieval, and other imitations of the technology of the common conference room.
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