Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cisco's ūmi takes telepresence from board room to living room

BOSTON, USA: Cisco has unveiled its ūmi consumer telepresence system, designed to bring the “immersive video” element of the company’s established business telepresence portfolio from the board room to the living room. The package, which includes an HD camera, a console and a remote, will retail for $599, and will require a $24.99 monthly service plan.

“This is a see-it-to-understand-it type of technology,” said Ben Piper, Service Director at Strategy Analytics, who recently test-drove the system. “The synchronization between audio/video and the dynamic lighting and volume adjustments make it feel remarkably close to a face-to-face interaction.”

Prices will have to come down significantly before the product can reach any kind of measurable volumes, says Strategy Analytics.

Research recently conducted by Strategy Analytics shows that while nearly 30% of Americans would be “somewhat” or “very” interested in a consumer telepresence system, about half of those interested say they are often concerned about their ability to afford regular household bills—and half say they are worried about signing up for new fixed-term contracts.

The service requires broadband with a minimum upload speed of 1.5Mbps, something that only about one-third of US households currently have.

“While video calling is the most obvious application, its utility is very limited,” said Piper. “We see an opportunity for Cisco to team with private industry to position ūmi as a business to consumer offering, subsidized by Financial Services, Health Care, Retail, and Education. That’s when we’ll see the really exciting applications start to surface, and the network’s ‘critical mass’ begin to evolve.”

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