Part of the Email and messaging glossary:

A porta-person is a device-based representation of an individual for teleconference applications. A porta-person may be a robot or a device that combines a PC or terminal with peripherals such as cameras, microphones and stereo sound systems. There are a number of applications for porta-people. For example, if a certain member of a conference group cannot be physically present at a meeting, a PC or terminal takes that member's place. The PC or terminal may be set down on the conference table at the spot the member would normally occupy.

Watch a brief porta-person demonstration.

The porta-person employs a high-speed Internet connection in conjunction with voice over Internet Protocol ( VoIP ) for transmitting the images and sound. At the member's actual location a panoramic display along with "surround sound" creates the virtual equivalent of the conference room. Some high-end porta-person systems employ mobile robot s that move around the meeting room, along with remote-control equipment at missing members' home offices. The porta-person concept, while workable for a small proportion of group members, becomes impractical if most or all of the members are unable to be physically present in the conference room.

The term porta-person was coined by Sun Microsystems although variants of the technology are in use by numerous corporations and institutions. Porta-person technology has potential applications beyond the corporate or institutional meeting room. For example, a porta-person can allow a sick child to attend school or provide companionship for shut-ins and hospital patients.

This was last updated in February 2007
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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