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Like many of you, I joined the airborne migration of millions of people to visit family over the holidays. I flew to London from Portland, Oregon, emptying my frequent flier account to upgrade to business class, the better to accommodate the extra heft and bulk of being over seven months pregnant.Did I feel guilty? Absolutely. According to the online TRX calculator, my little jaunt across continent and pond emitted 2.33 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equivalent to the entire annual carbon contribution of a citizen of Botswana. But I’d also feel guilty if I didn’t go-cue the internal dialogue involving the words,”family”,”holidays”,”ailing grandmother,” etc.Further appeasing my conscience was the aircraft: a Boeing 767 outfitted with the latest”lie-flat” business class seats, six abreast in a row, complete with personal 17″ flat screen monitors and a massage chair worthy of a posh nail salon. My seatmate was a voluble fellow I’ll call Jeff, father of three, intrepid first-time international traveler.”œA good thing,” I thought,”that we can’t all travel like this regularly-we’d never sell another Cisco TelePresence unit.”Halfway through, I reconsidered. Jeff, fueled by the unlimited booze, began singing lustily to the soundtrack of”Kung Fu Panda”. He lost his way returning from the lavatory (a pity a flight attendant helped him find his seat). And-horrors-he tried to tuck my blanket in around me, patting my belly as he did so and calling me”little mother”. .Though I could probably gain an acquittal based on the pregnancy hormone defense, I chose instead to change my seat, grumbling that, even in the lap of luxury, traveling is still at best a spotty proposition. With just three hours left of the flight, I drifted off to sleep, dreaming about the day TelePresence is ubiquitous. . .Endpoints as common as the telephone: I could dial the nursing home’s TelePresence number on my IP phone and visit with Grandma Eileen before I start work every morning. My mother-in-law could see her American grandchildren and teach them what she calls”proper” English. I could attend staff meetings in San Jose without missing a beat or a flight. So I wouldn’t be able to wheel Grandma into the garden, or give cousin Penelope a big hug, but the point isn’t that TelePresence would replace my occasional visits-it’s that the sheer frequency and quality of interaction would go very far in diminishing the ache-and guilt-of not being there more often.A holiday toast, then, to the genuine, guilt-reducing, green technology of TelePresence. At a personal level, I can see my family more; at a global level, I can do so without further bruising our atmosphere. And, best of all, I wouldn’t have to endure charming plane-mates like Jeff.

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5 Comments.


  1. I don’t think Telepresence can ever replace human contact, but if it were more commonplace it definitely could help reduce air travel.Prehaps wonday we’ll have a Telepresence facilities (booths) in Shopping Malls, Airports, Tansport hubs, Schools, Univercities, Hospitals, Libraries, Governemnt buidlings, etc

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  2. Haha..Irene, I think we have all had our run ins with likes of Jeff. Ubiquitous TelePresence is hopefully a close reality :)

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  3. Great article.I’m sure you are a great mother!

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  4. Great article. The same as a whole person in botswana – that is terrible really! What are we to do though. Jeff sounds really nice! :D

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  5. telePresence is something that got the people or you can say a particular group of people. but still the reality is that no matter how improved the interface of machines may be they can’t be equal to humans contact. so to think of that it could compete humans its a baseless and logicless thing to say….craigslist los angeles

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