Cisco Announces Umi Today - History in the Making?
Submitted by Rich Green on Thu, 10/07/2010 - 10:14am
Home Telepresence has been on CEDIA's radar for years now. We all knew it was coming and that it would change the lives of many families. Well, it's here, or will be in about 30 days.
Cisco has been working on Home Telepresence for a long time. John Chambers, Cisco's CEO, demonstrated an early prototype at CES this year. They are committed to video conferencing technology in the enterprise and last year Cisco acquired Tandberg, a leader in videoconferencing technology, including telepresence systems, for over $2 Billion. That's a pretty serious commitment. Why are they doing this? The simple answer is that video consumes Internet bandwidth like nothing else, so promoting the use of video communications increases bandwidth requirements on the Internet and that means more Internet hardware, which is very good for Cisco.
But there is great good that comes from video communications. Today, Cisco announced their Home Telepresence system with a new name: Umi (as in You and Me). It works well as a verb too. Let's Umi Grandma tonight. I consider this to be an inflection point in the history of the family. It's a big deal.
Umi is a four-piece system consisting of a camera/microphone assembly that sits atop your TV, black box, remote control and the Cloud. The magic happens in the Cloud thanks to Cisco's very advanced telepresence technologies and hosting services.
What makes Umi unique is its dedication to the home TV. It is definitely not an office video conferencing system. Rather, it lives and breathes in the TV Room with a 1080p camera of extremely high quality and very powerful software to connect friends and family with ease and simplicity.\
Skype is in this space too, with Skype video on Panasonic, LG and other TVs--for free. And there's Apple's FaceTime. The difference here is quality, and Cisco is betting that a good number of families will appreciate the heightened presence that only high definition can bring. Umi will sell for $599 plus a $24.95 monthly subscription. It's certainly not free.
What does this mean for CEDIA members? You tell me. First, it puts a whole new emphasis on how we use our Family Rooms. In terms of room design, there are issues of room acoustics, lighting (for faces), viewing angles, and nasty hazards like back lighting from big windows. Home theater design will never be the same. The only option for video connection from the box to your TV is HDMI. Yep, good ol' HDMI.
I'm not worried. We can handle this with aplomb--Umi is simple. Be prepared, though, for an entirely new kind of source component in your designs. And stand back in awe of what happens when friends and families connect like they never have before.
Check out the new Cisco Umi web site and let me know your thoughts.
I think we're in for an interesting journey to new services in the home we could not have dreamed of only a few years ago. As I've been saying for a very long time now, *presence* is the future of technology.