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The Importance of Eye-Contact in Visual Communications by IMCCA

IMCCA's blog explores the role of eye-contact in telepresence and videoconferencing. Below is an excerpt, but you can read the original blog in its entirety here: imcca.org

The Visual Communications industry is exploding with new technology. From the highest end Telepresence systems to the latest offerings on iPods and iPads, the focus has been on how the technology will improve our ability to communicate and collaborate. Very little focus has been placed on how the technology might impede effective communication if not applied correctly.

Once such potential pitfall is how these technologies handle eye-contact between participants. In the world of telepresence, this is sometimes referred to as “eye-line” or “gaze angle”, and it is worthy of some additional analysis.

Psychology dictates that there are certain key elements that allow for effective communication and interaction between two or more individuals. How successfully we relate to one another depends greatly upon eye-to-eye contact.

-When you make eye contact in conversation, heartbeat rates actually increases exposing a physiological connection between you and the person you’re having conversation with.
-About 80 percent of any random conversation you have with a colleague or client involves your “None Verbal communication skills," not the words you speak.
-Eye-Contact is the most important, yet least understood component of “Non-Verbal Communications”
-People who have difficulty providing and maintaining eye contact with other suffer from a real psychological disorder known simply as “Gaze avoidant personality disorder”

The video-conferencing and telepresence options available today treat this aspect of their product in very different ways. Some have a camera matched with each display of a single or multiple display system, others have a multiple camera unit placed in the center of all displays. Each of these options approaches a simulation of eye contact to varying degrees. For example, if you are in the end seat of a three screen telepresence system, looking directly across at a far-end participant also seated on the end, but the cameras are in the middle, you will unconsciously perceive that something is “off” about the person across from you. In this case, the technology that is supposed to be neutral is actually introducing a psychological element that does not exist, effecting the communication.

In addition, most HD Videoconference and Telepresence systems have a significant problem caused by high camera placement.

Read the original blog here: imcca.org.

The article was written co-written by Jeff Machtig and David Danto and contains solely their own, personal opinions.

Jeffrey S. Machtig is the co-founder of Digital Video Enterprises — a firm that manufactures Telepresence and video conference systems that have perfect eye-line. More details on his firm’s products can be found at devtelepresence.com. Jeff can be reached at jeff.machtig@dvetelepresence.com.