There's been a renewed interest in videoconferencing recently as it offers a cheaper alternative to travel. But, it sucks. A lot. Talking to people over a computer isn't like talking to people in person. Getting yourself a robot is one way to go, but NTT is working on a solution with giant swiveling transparent screens.
NTT figures that part of what makes videoconferencing so lousy is that everyone on the other end feels like they're talking to a screen and not to a real person. To that end, they've decided to try and improve the experience by making screens act (slightly) more like real people in a couple different ways. First, they're using a screen that been enlargified such that the image of the person on it is approximately the same size as that person actually is. And second, they've combined face tracking with a little servo motor to get the screen to swivel back and forth depending on which videoconferencee the videoconferencer is looking at, making it easy to remotely stare some people down and deliberately ignore others.
The screen is also see-through with the background of the speaker removed to make it even more convincing that they're actually there, although if you ask me, the lack of legs is still a dead giveaway.
See it in action here:
On a personal note, having experienced several different robotic telepresence systems, I can say that having a person-sized image to talk to really does make a huge difference. It's probably something psychological, but when you're able to directly interact with someone by looking at their face in enough detail to catch all those little nuances of expression, it's easier to suspend your disbelief (to some extent, at least) that they're not actually right there with you.
Via Akihabara News