Cisco Telepresence

I was down at Cisco yesterday and saw a demo of their telepresence setup and the “connected sports” concept they are promoting for the new stadium the Oakland A’s want to build in Fremont.

The telepresence demo blew me away. Sure it’s pricey at up to $300k per setup, but the experience is amazing and removes almost every shortcoming of current web conference and teleconference systems. While the video capabilities were indeed impressive, it was the audio capabilities that are the clear differentiating capability.

The microphones are noise canceling and voice activated, and when combined with the multi-speaker configuration the effect is that there is spatiality in the audio. Put another way, when someone on the end of the table was speaking, the sound was directed from their seating position. The noise canceling was very effective, resulting in clear and “human textured’ speech but also clarity in the side conversations, which results in you getting the feel of the room as opposed to sound coming from microphones.

The video screens are, I believe, 52″ and Cisco claims they “optimized the glass” but who knows it that means something other than them putting a Cisco logo on the bezel. The large screens do make for life size images, again creating the impression that you are in a room.

The two shortcomings are that this obviously doesn’t work if you have more than 6 people on each end. We had 8 and the effect was that people in the back row were heard but not seen very well and if anyone stood up the result was that you only saw from their belt down.

The other shortcoming is that projected video, as in powerpoint presentations, are displayed below the screens. I found this to be kind of awkward. I think I would much prefer desktop units at each seat that displayed presentations, etc.

I went into this demo shrugging my shoulders, and I left saying “holy crap that’s cool”. At SAP we had invested a lot of money in top shelf video conferencing equipment and the experience was always crappy. The audio never had the warmth and texture of face-to-face conversation, and the video lacked the depth of field that this 3 screen wide experience delivered, and the result was that you always felt like you were looking down a tunnel when you were watching remote video.

At $300k for a system like this, and incidentally that includes the furniture as well, I can definitely see something like this getting a high degree of utilization that actually does result in travel expenses being reduced.


Craig tagged me and while I’ve done my best to avoid this over the years, I will play along.

My mission is to disclose 8 things about myself and tag 8 more bloggers:

  1. I met my wife on an flight to JFK that ended up being delayed on the ground in SFO for 3 hours, which means our first date ended up being almost 9 hours long. It must have been fate, we were married 3 months from the date we met.
  2. I am a freak about having a clean car, I always have been. I will have my car washed up to 3 times a week. My wife rolls her eyes, it’s probably good that she married me after just 3 months…
  3. My first real job was in my senior year of high school. With a half day class schedule I got a job as a carpenter and worked the graveyard shift on glass factory renovation (they had 4 months to get that job done so were working 24 hours a day). I went to work at 11pm and went to classes when I was finished with my shift, sleeping in the afternoon. I joined the carpenters union (local 848) and was making $19 an hour plus benefits, which for a high school student was more money than God. It also taught me a valuable lesson, hard labor sucks as a way to make a living… but the construction skills I learned have served me well over the years.
  4. My first computer was a TRS-80 and it absolutely fascinated me. I wish I still had it.
  5. I get choked up easily watching movies.
  6. I am left handed but play a lot of sports (e.g. baseball and golf) right handed. I surf goofy-foot.
  7. I love the smell of napalm in the morning… I do get up really early and walk our dog as the sun is coming up. It is my favorite time of the day because a whole new day is in front of me.
  8. I am hyper self-critical, to a fault, and fundamentally believe I won’t be successful at anything I do. I think it’s a strategy I’ve conned myself into so that I won’t be disappointed if I don’t succeed. Ironically, I’m generally an optimist and believe that everyone else will be successful. It’s a conflict I have yet to reconcile.

The second half of the challenge was to tag 8 bloggers who, as far as I know, have not already been tagged. I now tag Greg Reinacker, Sig Rinde, Jana Eggers, Eric Norlin, Bart Decrem, Ismael Ghalimi, Jevon MacDonald, and Kevin McDonald.

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Gizmodo’s Prank at CES

I guess I need to weigh in on the Gizmodo CES prank because, well, I need to pump up my Techmeme ranking (just kidding Gabe). The Gear Diary post doesn’t have a lot of links to it yet so rather than linking to the Gizmodo post and getting lost in the noise, I’ll link to Gear Diary.

Actually, I didn’t think much of this until I watched the video. Gizmodo may have called it a prank, but what they really did was fuck with hard working people doing their jobs and that ain’t cool. If you have ever done live demos you know the anxiety that technical disruptions cause, this is only made even worse by the knowledge that it wasn’t a technical glitch at all but someone who thinks it’s a joke.

I can only imagine that Gizmodo would not have the same sense of humor if I were to be invited to guest blog and instead deleted all their content.

This was not just a stupid high school prank that had been perpetrated on a faceless victim. This was sabotage that had been done to companies with massive financial investments in their CES appearances. The potential for lost sales, loss of good will, and loss of face was huge.

[From Total and Utter Crap: Gizmodo’s Stupid CES Prank on Motorola and Us Bloggers at Gear Diary]