The full text of this article is available on the website of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:
By Giulio Prisco and J. Simone Riccardi
There can be no doubt that the explosion of Internet technology started in the 90s has had a huge impact on our culture. For the first time in history, geographically distributed large groups of people have been able to interact in near-real time. Usenet groups and mailing lists, and then the Web, message boards, blogs, social networks, IP voice and video conferencing, have enabled and empowered global communities held together by common interests and world-views instead of geographical proximity.
This has permitted a very significant acceleration in nearly all fields of culture and human endeavor: our society has, in a very measurable sense, become smarter. Of course, since Information Technology professionals and skilled amateurs are themselves among the most passionate and active users of the Internet, powerful feedback loops have enormously accelerated the development of Internet technology itself, which has arguably been the fastest developing technology sector in the last two decades. In the last few years, much of the action has been on Web 2.0 and social networking: a much more interactive Web centered on live interaction between people. Everyone loves Facebook and Twitter because they permit a much more immediate and deep, “immersive”, interaction with others.
New even more immersive online collaboration technologies such as VoIP, IPTV, videoconferencing, online sensor networks (IoT, Internet of Things), 3D Virtual Reality (VR) technologies developed by the gaming industry, and Augmented Reality, are converging to create powerful telepresence platforms. Wikipedia (another wildly popular Internet success story) defines telepresence as “a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance that they were present, or to have an effect, at a location other than their true location.” Telepresence systems offer a very high degree of immersion and give an impression of “being there” so powerful to permit users suspending disbelief and becoming fully engaged in the online experience. The telepresence term is often used in a slightly more specific sense, but we use it in a general sense to include immersive 3D virtual environments…
… A few years ago, while doing a consulting project for an educational foundation, we stumbled upon one of our current favorite platforms: Teleplace is a fully operational, value added implementation of the technologies developed by the open source Croquet and Cobalt projects. It is a telepresence platform which includes 3D virtual environments, full audio and videoconferencing for multiple users, desktop screen sharing, shared text editors and white-boards, and the possibility to easily import Office documents for collaborative editing via the built-in Open Office application. Teleplace also has a built-in collaborative browser, the possibility to easily import images, 3D models and video, and last but not least a tool to video record and/or webcast sessions. These features, and the fact that Teleplace is very easy to use, make it one of the most suitable platforms for telepresence education. Teleplace has been chosen to implement the teleXLR8 project, a “telepresence community for cultural acceleration” focused on science and technology education, currently in closed beta, which will offer public seminars for “citizen-scientists” as well as specific e-learning courses…
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