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Cisco Demos Public Rooms For Telepresence 65

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-you-see-me-now dept.
CWmike writes "Matt Hamblen reports that Cisco Systems Inc. has announced the first telepresence videoconferencing rooms available for public use. It demonstrated the technology simultaneously in four locations in India, the US and the UK Three of the four demonstration sites were retrofitted rooms in Taj Hotels in London, Bangalore, India and Boston. The luxury hotel chain will build the videoconferencing rooms for business and guest use at rates starting at $400 an hour in the Boston location. Cisco said prices will vary from $299 to $899 an hour at various locations globally, depending on the number of users. The rooms can accommodate from one to 18 people."
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Cisco Demos Public Rooms For Telepresence

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  • by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @08:20PM (#25392705) Journal

    That's one place I don't want to see a demo!

  • Can't they just use iChat or something?

  • by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @08:22PM (#25392725)
    ...so I can talk to my cats while I'm on vacation? I have a Logitech webcam and a Linux box. Thankyouforyourtime.
  • by c0d3r (156687) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @08:24PM (#25392745) Homepage Journal

    At those costs, it is cheaper to fly out and meet in person.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @08:29PM (#25392805)

      You can fly 18 people to India for $899?
      Cheapest tickets out there are $1200/person.
      With telepresence you can get 2 rooms for $1800 and have a meeting with 36 people, or you can fly 18 of them out for $16,182 and have a bunch of cranky people that had to take 24 hour flights and deal with international travel hassles

      • by Hatta (162192)

        True, but these prices are well above cost still. If this business model is successful, competition will bring the prices way down. Anyone with a spare conference room and an internet connection could get in on this, most companies have that. Hell, it would cost around $899 to have someone install a PC with a video camera and VLC in their office, no need to rent a room.

        • by torkus (1133985)

          Have you actually participated in a video conference? How about a business related one...and then how about a telepresence conference?

          These prices aren't all that obscene. A telepresence room will run you about 500k (and you need two!). Plus the bandwidth is NOT your average 384K DSL. There's 4 screens running at 1-2MBit each plus audio.

          Besides, telepresence is an entirely encapsulated and planned room. There's no echo, there's no bad lighting, there's no spots where you have to yell to be heard. The

    • Especially for sex. I rather have the REAL thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CambodiaSam (1153015)
      I've actually seen Telepresence in action. A set of three 1080p monitors, multiple cameras, mics, and a high-end sound system all built into a custom designed room. The result: a freekishly interactive experience. People actually seem to be sitting on the other side of a table across from you.

      If you have overpriced executives that are traveling all the time, it doesn't take long to figure out how much you save in both direct travel costs and indirect salary waste.

      Oh the cost of that system: $300k per
      • by c0d3r (156687)

        I've actually had sex in person. There is really no substitute.

        • by macdaddy (38372)
          We know better than that. Proof! We demand proof!
          • by c0d3r (156687)

            Well I imagine i can have sex in one of these conference rooms and others can watch, and it can be recording the session at the same time. Proof.. You got Proof! I wonder if this thing can handle the smells.. =P>

  • Pfew! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's a good thing it maxes out at $899.00! I couldn't afford $900.00!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      In the second video, towards the end, after the long long long marketing spiel, he finally explains why this technology sucks.

      If a person in one of the rooms points at a person in another room, the people in the other two rooms can't tell who is being pointed at. So "you're fired!" gets very confusing very quickly.

      FAIL.

      • by Jellybob (597204)

        That's not really a huge failure - it would probably take some time to get used to, but you just adapt the way you communicate if you happen to be in a video conference.

        Instead of pointing at someone and saying "you're fired", point (for the benefit of the people in the room), and say "QuantumG, you're fired". It's not really that difficult.

  • LifeSize (Score:5, Informative)

    by SLOviper (763177) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @08:47PM (#25392979)
    The Cisco Telepresence systems are nice, but not /that/ nice. $400 per hour seems a bit steep when you have to travel to the meeting place to begin with. Maybe for the extremely rare instance for a smallish company.

    For our VTC, we use relatively cheap LifeSize systems. We've had good luck with stability and interoperability although most of our VTC is LifeSize to LifeSize. Still, at $5K for a basic system (plus display) it wouldn't take long to make that up. A fully integrated room like the Cisco system goes for ~$75K.

    One more note. If you're going to do serious VTC, use Masergy.

    One one more note, LifeSize just released their new systems which do 1080p30. I don't know about bandwidth, but the "old" 720p30 systems that I'm using do that with ~1100kbps. I'm assuming that the new ones will require ~4 times that for full motion.

    Obligatory disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with LifeSize, just a happy customer. :-)
    • by SL Baur (19540)

      The Cisco Telepresence systems are nice, but not /that/ nice. $400 per hour seems a bit steep when you have to travel to the meeting place to begin with. Maybe for the extremely rare instance for a smallish company.

      You're going to have to do that anyway. And if you must have a face-to-face, the price is quite competitive when you consider airfare, hotel rentals, car rentals, per diem expenses, etc.

      So long as it is the extremely rare instance (which is all that is justified IMO when you have offices in distant time zones), this is a very nice system.

      The basic problem with heavy dependence on any type of real-time technology is time zone differences. 9AM to 5PM in Tokyo is 4PM to Midnight (5PM to 1AM in the winter) in

  • by Genevish (93570) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:01PM (#25393083) Homepage
    Isn't this just videoconferencing, which Kinko's has offered for years? [fedex.com]
    • by symbolset (646467)

      No, it's cooler than that. And by cooler I mean "flashy".

      We've got these and they do look pretty wicked. Probably fit right in your basic C-level executive conference room, but not the casual lounge set aside for Very special guests.

  • by east coast (590680) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:12PM (#25393175)
    I first read this as "Cisco Demos Public Restrooms For Telepresence"
  • by rfc1394 (155777) <Paul@paul-robinson.us> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:30PM (#25393301) Homepage Journal

    Let's see, I've done some video of my own, using a web cam that cost me $12. (Granted, it was only 15fps, but for extreme low cost it would fit the bill and my 30fps camera set me back a whopping $175.) Now, there's some cost for an Internet connection and maybe the TV they're providing is an expensive $3,000 flat screen, but as I see it, the reason you use teleconferencing is to save money, not to spend more than it costs to go there in person.

    This is like, oh, 1980s pricing when telecommunications links were extremely expensive and companies would be willing to spend money on new toys and people didn't know what the real cost of an international video connection was. Most people in business see enough video over the Internet to realize that the cost to deliver even high-quality video is not extreme. Thus they're going to realize these prices are way too high and they're not buying it.

    Of course! I'm forgetting! This is the rack rate, the advertised rate a hotel claims to charge if you walk up to the desk and ask for a room that day, you get reamed up the anus for the maximum possible rate. Expect the rate claimed to be severely discounted, even for very short advance notice. No one will use it otherwise. Might work at $100 an hour or $400 a day but I seriously don't think it's going to work at $400 an hour.

    Let's see, and my numbers may be wrong but let me make an estimate. I can ignore salaries because you're paying them the same whether their butt is sitting in a chair in, say, DC or in Hong Kong. Since I know some of these prices I can give an example.

    Say you have to send four people to a meeting in Seoul. (I know it doesn't list there as a place but I'm presuming one will be there eventually if they want it to be successful.) KAL from DC or New York to Seoul, South Korea is around $800 each way per person. Hotel probably adds the same per day for the team. (One room for male members, one room for female ones.) Add another $400 for per diem. So for a seven-day meeting to negotiate a contract, it's going to cost $6400, plus $5600 for the rooms, plus another $5600 for feeding them, etc. That's $17,500. Add in $2200 each for their salaries plus G&A for the 4 days they're sitting on a plane not working (plane trip each way plus some time before and after to recover from jet lag), add another $2,000 for bribes and unexpected expenses (yes, I know technically bribes are illegal, but in some places you have no choice or you can't get business done at all) and it totals $27,600 for the trip and your people even got to visit South Korea during off-hours.

    Now, you're sticking them in front of a video room for 6 hours a day, that's $4,800 each day (presumably you have to pay the other side's conference room cost, the use of telepresence is for your convenience, not theirs, it wouldn't cost them anything to have the meeting in person at their offices), and in a week, that's $33,600 and your people ain't even gotten a free junket out of it so there's no appreciation for the company (and no friendly competition among your people to get that juicy trip at company expense.) And some of these travel expenses might be negotiable. Plus, if you aren't in a city where their video conference rooms are, you have an expense to go there, reducing any alleged "savings" over the cost of travel.

    Besides, if video conferencing was so much better, people'd be using their own computers and doing it over the Internet for a cost equivalent probably to the first one hour Cisco wants to charge. I don't know about you, but I think you can do a fairly decent videoconference over a 764K internet connection, and that's what Verizon is offering me for $19.95 a month, and their commercial DSL is 3mbps for $42.95 a month.

    Let me tell you, I did a so-so videoconference with a friend, using a web cam, oh, about, ten, twelve years ago, me in Arlington, Virginia, 4 miles from Washington D.C., friend was in Colorado, audio was so so and video was

    • by matt21811 (830841) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:39PM (#25393793) Homepage

      Funniest post I have read in a while.

      You clearly have never seen what the setup is like to use.

      You should go to the movie industry and tell them they dont have to spend 30 million a film when you can do similar things with the video recorder on your mobile phone and a PC. It's about the same thing.

    • I do not think you have priced things out right.

      Say you have to send four people to a meeting in Seoul. (I know it doesn't list there as a place but I'm presuming one will be there eventually if they want it to be successful.) KAL from DC or New York to Seoul, South Korea is around $800 each way per person.

      For economy try doubling or tripling that.

      Just for grins, I tried searching for airline ticket prices, since I pay over $1300 to fly roundtrip SFO/NAIA and unbelievably you may be right and wrong. I did not find any KAL flights out of NYC, but I did find a JAL flight out of NYC with one stop at Narita and then on to SEL for $655. JAL has been quite mismanaged[1] of late, but that is one hell of good price. It also means that they do not necessarily have tic

    • There is of course a huge Cisco markup, but the units aren't exactly cheap either. It's not your HP Pavillion. They have three 1080p cameras, three large flat screens, and HD encoders that work in real time. They even remodel the room, furniture included, to get the lighting and positioning just right.

      The bandwidth requirements are very steep as well, with three 1080p full motion video streams. (Or six if you count both directions.) IIRC, the traffic can't go over the public Internet because of latency requ

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ostracus (1354233)

        One 1080p Camera [$4,800] [electronista.com]

        60" Plasma [$4,014.99] [ecost.com]

        HD encoder 9Mbps for three HDTV [infinitevi...ration.com]

        • I'm confused. Are you trying to say that Cisco hardware is more expensive than other options? I can't say I would be shocked.

        • by torkus (1133985)

          Ok, HD camera x 4
          Plasma x4 ...

          Oh, and you wanted it integrated so it all works together?

      • by Eivind (15695)

        Probably true. But you're still just *talking* you know ? It's nice to see the face of whomever is doing the talking, but plain old television-quality works perfectly. It's not as if it was painful to watch the news before HDTV.

        640x480@30fps is plenty for all practical concerns. And a residential connection most certainly can handle that, unless you're American (residential broadband in the US is a joke). Residential broadband here in Stavanger, Norway for example tends to mean a choice of 10Mbps, 25mbps an

  • Telepresence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jkeelsnc (1102563) <jkeelsncNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:40PM (#25393371)
    Telepresence is a very cool technology. It is not just another video teleconference system. Anyone who has experienced it in person will be able to explain why it is not just another VTC. I visited the Cisco Office in Charlotte not too long ago and was able to experience a telepresence conference with Cisco in Research Triangle Park. It really is quite amazing. Yes, it is expensive but if you see it yourself in person you will understand why. It seems like a pretty good idea for cisco to have this system setup in hotels and other locations where it can be rented for corporations and other uses. In fact, I can see where this could be used as a solution for conferences that would normally require a lot of travel. Instead, a small or medium size company that has an office in Atlanta and another office in Denver can simply rent time in a telepresence room at a hotel in atlanta and then in denver and probably still make it a lot cheaper than flying people half way across the country esp with airline tickets and fuel costs as high as they are right now. Pretty cool stuff.
  • Telepresence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jkeelsnc (1102563) <jkeelsncNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:43PM (#25393385)
    One additional note. While I was at the Cisco office in Charlotte the office staff there told me that since they installed the telepresence system, Cisco has cut out virtually all travel. They can do that simply because the telepresence experience is so good that there is not much reason to travel. Also, of course the telepresence system is quite expensive so they had to compensate for that somewhere.
  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:07PM (#25393961)

    I had the benefit of experiencing multipoint teleconferencing. NewYork (where I was), San Jose and Boston. The room had three 60in plasmas and three cameras. Now of course you can't see everybody at once if there are three people in each room (9 feeds in total), but when the left person in Boston spoke, the left screen in New York changed to show the speaker (and the sound came from the left screen); then when the San Jose (left) guy spoke the Boston guy was replaced with that person. It was pretty slick, just like in a real room where you look at the person that is talking. There was _no lag_ with sound, such as you would ask a question and then just as if they were sitting next to you, they would respond.

    The setup was trivial. When we walked into the room the cisco phone on the desk was pre-programmed for our meeting and all we had to hit was the "join meeting" button next to the LCD screen. No phone numbers to dial, PINs etc. If we wanted to share a ppt, there was a VGA cable to plug our laptop into. I understand the folks that set the meeting up just plugged in the rooms into their outlook calendar and *voila* all done.

    For those comparing this to consumer grade video conferencing (yahoo/skype), it's like comparing IMAX to watching a movie on a iPhone.

    • by Inda (580031)
      "it's like comparing IMAX to watching a movie on a iPhone" - There's someone else in this thread who did just that. Funniest thing I've read today.

      We have a monster system here. 2m display in the middle, 2 half size displays either side, digital whiteboard that can be broadcast, overhead projector that can do the same, cameras that can auto-focus on the speaker, multiple network connection points for laptops (all broadcastable), satellite TV with sports channels! (why?), and this funky remote control for, u
  • Kinkos has has public telepresence rooms in some Kinkos outlets for years. They're not used much.

    But the coolest telepresence system is the Telectroscope. [tiscali.co.uk] This was very impressive. Especially because it was installed in public locations in New York and London, turned on, and left running 24 hours a day with no explanation.

    • by Anubis350 (772791)
      It was literally right down the block from my house (I live in brooklyn heights). A friend of mine and I wandered down to the landing one night and just found it. His family is british and he went to college there and knows tons of good bars in london. So there we were, us at 2am, london at 7am, having a conv with some couple on the other side (via whiteboards) who had just spent the night bar hopping about the best bars in london. Rather awesome and surreal. Also a great piece of steampunk looking tech th
  • by skidisk (994551) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:38AM (#25394587)
    I don't work for Cisco anymore, but when I did, we used Telepresence. It's incredible. You look straight into the eyes of the folks on the other end, they're in hi def, and there is NO LAG in the speech and reactions, even when they are half way around the world. It an entirely different experience -- it really does feel like you are in the same room with them. The conversations are better, more information dense, your expressions and reactions help speed understanding, and when you're done, you almost automatically start to get up and walk over to shake the other person's hand. It's very hard to explain the experience here in text; you need to actually do it. I agree that for casual communication, phone calls or simple web cams are fine. But for business communication, joint design sessions, trying to work through complex issues, and avoiding travel, these systems are incredible. I was as skeptical as anyone before I used it; I've seen teleconferencing for 40 years and it has almost always been more trouble than it's worth. Skype and webcams have changed the low end, and Telepresence will change the high end. If you know someone at Cisco, go ask them to get you in to see one. It's damn impressive, even for cynical tech-heads. [I don't work for Cisco, don't own their stock, and don't stand to gain anything from their success -- TP just rocks.]

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