18. November 2021 Blog

Telepresence vs. Video Conferencing: How do they differ?

Technological leap keeps communication flowing effectively across the world. It connects your team, making business communication possible from anywhere. Both telepresence and video conferencing are handy tools for communicating over the internet. Both work differently, offer different experiences and have different pros and cons. Yet, there is one thing in common - they create a real meeting experience in a virtual, easily accessible form.

Let’s explore what are the main differences, strengths and weaknesses

What are Telepresence and Video Conferencing?

Video conferencing is a meeting between people who use an internet connection or network to transmit audio and video data. Simply said, they see each other and communicate remotely through the screen of their computers. For video conferencing, you can use well-known video calling softwares, such as Google Meets, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Telepresence, sometimes called remote presence, stands for a conference space dedicated to virtual conferencing. It uses VR technology for merging two locations into one place. The goal is to simulate face-to-face communication when people cannot meet personally. It supports an illusion that participants or groups are together in one room.

We can describe it as a technologically more advanced video conferencing which involves robotics installations. That also allows people to actually accomplish tasks remotely.

Advantages of remote meetings 

  • Enhanced communication: Speaking is only one part of the way we communicate. While talking, people use nonverbal signals, too. According to the New York Times, body language forms more than 50 % of communication. Emotions are more difficult to read without a visual input, which can potentially cause misunderstanding. What we say is also less engaging when we don't see each other. Therefore, it is equally important to emphasize verbal and non-verbal communication. 
  • Better chance to make an impression: In order to grow, businesses need to alleviate bottlenecks. Effective remote communication through video is a huge benefit. It allows for deeper explanation and more engagement with clients.  
  • Fast return on investment: If we consider key benefits of remote meetings, such as eliminating travel expenses, remote video connection, more engagement and business enablement, it's easy to see ROI grow fast. 

The Differences Between Telepresence and Video conferencing

Both telepresence and video conferencing are tools for face-to-face communication over long distances, with the help of technology. Yet, they both have some major differences.

Each of them have some unique characteristics for specific requirements.

#1 Video Quality 

Video conferencing visual structure is quite simple. Two endpoints attain communication through a virtual calling system and see each other on a screen. Simply said, it's like watching a TV program where your colleague, client or business partner play the main roles. 

A camera is placed at one end of the room, focusing on a gathered group of people. When someone speaks, the camera is mostly focused on her/him, making the rest of attendees seem further away

Also, since video conferencing relies on standard technology, there is a risk of inconsistent quality. It traditionally uses standard definition - SD, which transmits lower resolution images (720x480).

Further, using multiple laptops means having more user endpoints. That may overwhelm the bandwidth and harm the quality of screen connection

On the flip side, telepresence is quite complex. Picture feels like you were at the meeting in person, even though you are half-way across the world. Therefore, instead of watching TV, you feel like being in it.

Telepresence is set up to be in a 1:1 ratio. The camera focuses on each person equally. It works in HD quality with resolution of 1920 X 1080. Also, telepresence videos are much steadier and more predictable, no matter how many participants are attending the meeting

Plus point: Telepresence

#2 Audio Structure

While visual issues may be annoying, they are tolerable. But unstable audio can make communication difficult, if not impossible

Speech quality of video conferencing may meet with some difficulties, like jitter or echo. The sound possesses only single-channel audio. It means that all audio routes, travelling from one destination to another, are transmitted and compressed through one output. That may cause a reduction of audio quality

Video conferencing also misses a capability to cancel a background noise, which can be distracting for participants. 

In the case of telepresence, audio is clear and echo-free, with sufficient volume. It also has the potential of spatial audio. That makes participants feel like the source of speech is directly at their remote location. This creates a stronger sense of face-to-face communication.

Plus point: Telepresence

#3 Interoperability 

Interoperability simply refers to a degree that a device can communicate with other devices. Here, video conferencing is more practical. It doesn't matter what hardware or software technology each meeting attendee uses. For a simple visual meeting, everything will work together

Telepresence has a bit of a downside at this point. The communication works much better if the other side is equipped with the same quality of telepresence software and hardware as your team. 

If one group has a not so powerful device, both groups will experience the quality the less advanced technology provides. This leads to a weak performing video even on a high resolution screen.

Plus point: Video conferencing

#4 User Experience

User experience of video conferencing varies vendor by vendor. So does a range of available features. Although, most of softwares offers basic functions nowadays, such as screen sharing, call scheduling or video recording. Long story short, user experience from video conferencing largely depends on the user interface of the specific software you are using

A telepresence works in the opposite way. It uses software with a simple dashboard. As a host, you can just login and start a call or join one right away. Since there is no collection of additional features, telepresence has fewer distractions. You can fully focus on effective conversations. 

Plus point: Telepresence

#5 Costs

Pricing is probably the most significant difference between telepresence and video conferencing. Telepresence is much costlier than video conferencing. 

Only the initial setup of telepresence can cost your business around 300 000 USD. Network services operating price is usually about 8 000 dollars per month

In the case of a video conferencing, the initial acquisition expenses are only around 40 000 USD. Network services cost about 1 000 USD per month

By a thirty-six month operation, videoconferencing may cost businesses an estimated 36 000 USD, while 588 000 USD is computed for telepresence.

What's more, you can use some video conferencing tools for free

Plus point: Video conferencing

#6 Compatibility

You probably experienced that products of two different brands didn't work well together, or weren't compatible at all. In this point, video conferencing performs better. Providers make their products compatible with other video conferencing tools. That is because a simplified interface allows full functionality across competitors' products. 

On the other hand, many telepresence providers don't support compatibility with their competitors. Therefore, if one group of meeting attendees uses different software than the other group, the functionality will be limited or won't work at all

Plus point: Video conferencing

Telepresence vs video conferencing: Which one to choose? 

If you would calculate our point system, it ends up as a tie - 3:3. But even if it would be 5:1 for telepresence or video conferencing, the choice is not much simpler

There are a lot of variables you should consider before choosing the right solution for your business. 

First, start by reviewing your needs. 

Ask yourself following: 

  • How would you utilize the tool? 
  • What is your budget? 
  • What are your requirements? 
  • Will your team benefit more from the costlier solution? 

Once you answer these questions, you are a step closer to choosing between telepresence and video conferencing. 

Nevertheless, we prepared a summary that can help you make your final choice

#1 Financial Stability  

As we said, telepresence is significantly costlier than video conferencing

Therefore, if you are a young business or a start-up on the beginning of its journey, you probably don't have financial resources to efford telepresence solutions. At least not yet. Video conferencing should be more than enough to cover your needs. 

For businesses with steady income, if it's not likely to rapidly decrease in a short period of time, telepresence is a good long term investment. You can significantly boost communication efficiency and clients' satisfaction. Not to mention, provide an amazing experience for both you and customers.  

#2 In-house Corporations vs Remote Businesses

Now, let's explore the initial “What are your requirements?” question. 

If you work in-house, have many international clients and enough space in your headquarters, telepresence may be a good investment. This technology can radically cut your travel expenses, enhance a level of communication and make for better collaboration. Better sound, video quality, as well as user experience may lead to more deals.

For companies that don't have huge global offices and mostly work remotely - with a team distributed all over the world - video conferencing is the fastest and most effective way of remote meetings. 

#3 Fast-growing vs Established Businesses

If you are a fast growing start-up that is recruiting new people constantly, choosing video conferencing may be better for you. It's easier to add users and features. On the other hand, if you have circumstances for it and enough financial resources, incorporating telepresence can help you grow even faster. It may play a big role in gaining new clients

Still, telepresence is more beneficial for those companies that are already on the market for some time and their business is stable. If you are not constantly hiring new people, you probably won't have to move to a bigger office each year. Therefore, building a robust telepresence solution for important investors is a safe choice.

Don't forget:

Consider interoperability and compatibility criterias. Think of what technology your frequent meeting partners use. How efficiently will you be able to use your tool? 

Conclusion 

Telepresence and video conferencing are both widely used, yet very different tools for virtual communication. While video conferencing is like watching a TV, telepresence feels like being inside of the program.

Video conferencing allows you to lead simple, affordable virtual meetings. Yet, there are areas where it lacks. Less quality of video and audio poses a risk of occasional issues. Therefore, it can lower an overall user experience

Telepresence, although more expensive, wins in sound and video quality. It eliminates the thread of screen or sound issues and makes for a more engaging experience. By utilizing VR technology, telepresence creates a sensation of actually being in the same room. Though, it often lacks interoperability, as well as compatibility between competitor products.  

Making the right decision lies in many factors, such as business needs, current circumstances and financial situation. 

One way or another, both tools are an excellent way to communicate with your employees or clients from anywhere on the globe.