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Telepresence refers to a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance of being present, or to have an effect, via telerobotics, at a place other than their true location.
Telepresence requires that the users' senses be provided with such stimuli as to give the feeling of being in that other location. Additionally, users may be given the ability to affect the remote location. In this case, the user's position, movements, actions, voice, etc. may be sensed, transmitted and duplicated in the remote location to bring about this effect. Therefore information may be traveling in both directions between the user and the remote location.
A popular application is found in telepresence videoconferencing, the highest possible level of videotelephony. Telepresence via video deploys greater technical sophistication and improved fidelity of both sight and sound than in traditional videoconferencing. Technical advancements in mobile collaboration have also extended the capabilities of videoconferencing beyond the boardroom for use with hand-held mobile devices, enabling collaboration independent of location.
In a pioneering paper, the U.S. cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky attributed the development of the idea of telepresence to science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein: "My first vision of a remote-controlled economy came from Robert A. Heinlein's prophetic 1948 [sic] novel, Waldo," wrote Minsky. In his science fiction short story "Waldo" (1942), Heinlein first proposed a primitive telepresence master-slave manipulator system.
The Brother Assassin, written by Fred Saberhagen in 1969, introduced the complete concept for a telepresence master-slave humanoid system. In the novel, the concept is described as follows: "And a moment later it seemed to all his senses that he had been transported from the master down into the body of the slave-unit standing beneath it on the floor. As the control of its movements passed over to him, the slave started gradually to lean to one side, and he moved its foot to maintain balance as naturally as he moved his own. Tilting back his head, he could look up through the slave's eyes to see the master-unit, with himself inside, maintaining the same attitude on its complex suspension."
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