"Telepresence" Touted As Travel Alternative

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While fuel prices are the overwhelming factor in the spate of recent airline failures, the Web site Telepresence Options claims that teleconferencing is also having an impact. The site, sponsored by a group called the Human Productivity Lab, says meeting face to virtual face by satellite is becoming a money-saving alternative to air travel and cites HSBC's installation of a system linking its London and Hong Kong offices saving the bank $604,000 in airfare in one month. There's nothing particularly new about teleconferencing but it's been inaccessible or inconvenient for most of us, something HPL is hoping to change through PowWow Virtual, a system of public-access teleconferencing sites.

HPL is looking for investors to get the network going but some companies have already started selling the idea and the gear. According to HPL, there should be hundreds of publicly accessible teleconferencing sites at hotels and convention centers worldwide.