‘Tele’ in Latin means ‘far off’, or ‘at a distance’’. ‘Presence’ is the state of being at a specific place, ‘here and now’. Today, the telephone is a simple example of our capabilities of having an auditory telepresence, affording us the ability to communicate from remote locations, with limited spatial constrictions. It facilitates our ability to have some ‘presence’ while communicating from a distance, at a synchronized time, or ‘now’. This presence is limited, however, because the telephone only employs our sense of hearing, and does not engage our other senses, as would a face-to-face conversation.
But how can we qualify or quantify a level of presence? Usoh, et al, in their 1997 article titled “Presence: Experiments in the Psychology of Virtual Environments”, refer to one’s presence in either a real or virtual environment as a psychological state of consciousness. “It is a sense of ‘being there’ in the environment which in the case of the virtual environment is displayed by a computer”. How psychologically present we are in either real or virtual environments is dependent upon how integrated we are in the environment via the senses, and how well we relate to it using our previous experiences as a point of reference. According to Usoh, et al, telepresence, which can also be called virtual presence, is a measure of immersion in one’s environment, which is proportional to both exogenous and endogenous factors, as applied to a body. That is, how present we are depends on factors interacting with our bodies outside (exogenous), as well as factors effecting how we internally perceive and interpret these exogenous factors (endogenous).
Thus, the interface for presence is at the body. External sensory information interacts with the body and it’s senses. Our receiving and interpreting of this information acts like an anchor, connecting us to our environment at a specific time.