Cisco brings TelePresence to the living room

7 Oct 2010

Video conferencing is coming home – literally! Cisco has launched a new video-conferencing system that allows home users to convert the HD televisions in their living rooms into fully fledged TelePresence systems.

The Cisco ‘ūmi’ is scheduled to be available for pre-order on 6 October from and 18 October from Best Buy in the US. It is scheduled to be available to consumers on 14 November for the suggested retail price of US$599 with a monthly fee of US$24.99 for unlimited ūmi calls, video messaging and video storage. According to Cisco, it will be available in Europe next year.

Cisco ūmi connects to an existing HD television and a broadband internet connection to create a video communications experience that is so clear, natural and lifelike, that users will see and hear their loved ones, right down to the twinkle in their eyes and the tone of their voices, as if they were in the same room

Cisco ūmi, which includes an HD camera, a console and a remote, takes advantage of Cisco’s heritage in business telepresence, to deliver an immersive video experience that fits into every home, automatically adjusting to lighting conditions and various room sizes to provide superior video and audio performance.

Once Cisco ūmi is connected to an HD television and a wired or wireless broadband connection, a remote control provides access to an on-screen user interface, through which users can make ūmi calls, access video messages, manage contacts, and customise their profile and settings.

Users can also record their own ūmi videos, which they can share on Facebook, on YouTube, or via email. Users can even keep in touch with people who don’t have ūmi by placing and receiving video calls from any computer with a webcam and Google video chat.

“Cisco ūmi is the ultimate way to capture the simple joys of being together with our distant friends and loved ones, whether they are around the corner or across the country,” said Marthin De Beer, senior vice-president of Cisco’s emerging technologies business group.

“From singing happy birthday every year to reading bedtime stories every night, ūmi lets friends and families experience life’s special moments together.”

Cisco and Verizon working together

Cisco is also working with Verizon to bring the ūmi experience to Verizon FiOS customers early next year. The two companies have been conducting successful trials of Cisco ūmi over Verizon’s 100pc fibre-optic network, which delivers some of the fastest internet speeds in the US.

“Verizon’s high-IQ networks are incredible incubators of innovation that connect our customers to the things and the people they care about, how and when they want,” said Eric Bruno, vice-president of consumer product management at Verizon.

“We plan to be the first service provider to offer Cisco ūmi to our customers, delivering an amazingly clear and lifelike experience that brings family and friends into your living room.”

In the coming weeks, The Oprah Winfrey Show will bring people together on the show via Cisco ūmi while a nation-wide advertising campaign across the US will kick off featuring Ellen Page, the star of Juno and Inception.

“Cisco is bringing people together, driving new video experiences that change the way we communicate, connect, and enjoy entertainment – in the home, at work, and on the go,” said John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco.

“Cisco ūmi will bring the unique telepresence experience into living rooms and change the way we are able to be together with family and friends. We envision a future where technologies like this will play a role in connecting consumers with businesses to enable the delivery of new services, ranging from education, to healthcare, to financial services – to the home.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years