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Cisco’s ūmi telepresence™: A different way to connect

By The TechDad

Over the past few days, I have been experimenting with ūmi telepresence, Cisco’s new and much-heralded video conferencing service. Over the last several months, you may have seen Juno star Ellen Page promoting the service as part of Cisco’s “human network” campaign. Well, they have now brought the same human network concept to the consumer with the ūmi (pronounced “you-me”), which is designed for use in the home.

Think of all the possibilities for full screen HD home video conferencing: saying hi to the grandparents, checking in on the kids at college, sharing birthdays with old friends, opening Christmas presents together, or reading the kids bedtime stories when you’re away on business. Sure, there are other services that you can use for video chat, but if you have friends and relatives scattered around the country, talking to them and seeing them live in your living room in full color HD can be a magical and uplifting experience.

One of the challenges that Cisco faces is getting enough devices into the marketplace so consumers can get the full effect of ūmi-to-ūmi calls. But that doesn’t stop you from connecting with friends and family that don’t yet have a ūmi. You can place and receive calls from any computer with a webcam and Google video chat, setting up that person as a contact the same way you would set up another ūmi owner.

But perhaps the best feature of the ūmi is its simplicity. If you are going to buy one for grandma, then she better be able to use it, and thankfully Cisco has made the ūmi virtually granny-proof. The remote is a model of minimalist design and the on-screen menu is reduced to a simple four-leaf clover with intuitive icons leading the way. Privacy is also a top concern, with both the straightforward parental controls and the camera-off option making sure that no-one in the family gets embarrassed!

Of course, making and receiving video calls is only part of the fun when it comes to the ūmi. Located alongside the main living room TV, it effectively becomes a family video hub, allowing everyone to record, save and share as many videos as they want. You can send them to other ūmi users, so they are there when they return home; you can upload them to Facebook or YouTube; or you can just build your own HD collection of your family’s most memorable moments.

The ūmi may not be for everyone – the $599 price tag and the $24.99 a month subscription service puts it at the high end of the home electronics spectrum. But the stunning HD quality and the real-time interaction are what set ūmi apart. Other video conferencing services talk about bringing people closer together, ūmi telepresence actually does it.

Cisco’s ūmi telepresence is available at Best Buy or online through the Cisco Home Products Store.

Comment by Ellen Lebowitz, posted 11/21/2010, 7:05 AM:

Having recently participated in a Cisco Telepresence meeting, I thank Cisco for creating the opportunity to do so. Cisco's Telepresence manages to foster the feeling of intimacy - a genuine connection to another human being. My experience was pretty wonderful and I imagine this is why Telepresence is so successful. Thank you, Ellen Lebowitz
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