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25 March 2007

The future of the VTC

The Video TeleConference (VTC) is one of the little heralded advances which has so transformed the nature of command and staff decision making during this Long War, as it moved down from the most senior command ranks (as in Kosovo) to ever progressively more connected lower echelons. (For good or for ill is for the historians to decide, should there ever be a concerted effort to review this humble administrative technology amongst all of the other wiz-bang geek toys now given to us humble knuckledraggers.)

The future of the VTC may be emerging, however, from an unlikely spot. Virtual “actors working in real time from remote locations have been beamed onto a stage where they performed with live, in-the-flesh actors.”

As fascinating as this sounds from the futurists’ perspective, we cannot help but remember the old teleconferencing system originally established for nuclear command and control, for use by the National Command Authorities in the dark ages of the 1960’s. This older system was quite visually striking, involving the use of mannequins seated at a conference table, whose features were a transparent model of the individual designated to be virtually present. Into that shaped screen model was projected a video of the speaker from the remote location. All in all, for the time no doubt the very model of the modern virtual environment, and the think tank (RAND, we believe) and its government sponsors were undoubtedly and justifiably as proud of it as those actors are of their mediated creation. However, looking back, will we find such artifacts as quaint, and as disturbing, as their early warfighting counterparts?

Among the great unpublished historical images of the Long War will be any one of the number of rooms installed in numerous palaces throughout the theatre, marked by a high dollar cost plasma flat screens, with diligent staff clustered around the only faint light in the otherwise darkened room, the other circuits on overstressed electrical systems having blown out but the all important VTC still active… sic transit gloria mundi.

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