There is an interesting thread in the Gurteen Knowledge Forum on the subject of how to run a Virtual Knowledge Cafe that has been running for while.
And then recently, I was talking to Kitty Wooley on Skype about this and we decided it would be interesting for her to join one of my London Knowledge Cafes virtually as an experiment. So this would be one virtual person in a sea of real people.
My first thought was to have the "virtual Kitty" sit at a table as a laptop or better still as an IPad and to connect via Skype.
It seemed to me that this could even work more generally if there was just one virtual person per table.
But as I reflected on it - I realised that there might be some better technology available than a laptop or an iPad.
My first thought was a remote controlled WiFi webcam such as this one
BESTEX remote controlled webcam
But it was obviously not ideal and so I Googled around a little and found Beam+
and Double Robotics - Telepresence Robot for Telecommuters.
Both are wonderful but expensive pieces of technology that I am sure will come down in price overtime and will have their place.
But I wanted something simpler and less expensive and it did not need to be mobile.
I then came across the Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam
At first glance, it looked as if in combination with a laptop, it might work well until I realised that the person "beaming in" could not control where the camera was looking.
A big disappointment!
But I am sure it is only a matter of time before I can purchase something like this at a reasonable price and simply place the virtual person on a chair with the others at the table and for a good group conversation to take place even though it will still fall short of a genuine face to face, "body to body" conversation!