The solutions are intended for the small and midsized business marketplace. "Telepresence" refers to teleconferencing with larger-than-desktop/notebook-size displays, typically with hi-definition video, and better-than-phone-call sound quality. Uses for telepresence included as an alternative to local or long-distance travel; to provide visual monitoring of manufacturing and other remote activities; and instead of voice-only distributed meetings.
The Vu TelePresence Pro, according to the company, is "intended for private conversations between up to 5 locations, and is suited for individual practices, employee conferences, remote workers, employee offices and even the CEO.s suite."
The Vu TelePresence Premiere, which also includes a display, "is designed for a larger audience in settings such as boardrooms, meeting rooms and classroom environments." The company claimed that its systems offer the realism of systems that cost three to five times the price of theirs. Both systems support the use of additional displays.
According to Devita Saraf, Vu's CEO, the company developed its own codec -- the hardware and software that encode and decode video and audio, and the system can work with as little as 700 to 800kbps upstream speed. Vu systems are not interoperable with non-Vu systems, Saraf said; however, conference participants can use Vu software on their own PCs.
A Vu TelePresence system includes a Master Control Unit, a PTZ (Pan/Tile/Zoom) camera with 3.8x optical zoom, microphone and speakers. Companies must provide their own display. According to Vu, the system can do multi-party conferencing, desktop screen sharing, and up to 3,000 hours of video recording.
"We are seeing a confluence of technologies coming together at the same time, to make this cost effective and possible for small businesses," commented Howard Lichtman, president of Human Productivity Lab, a telepresence and effective visual collaboration research firm. "A few years ago, what Vu is offering now would have cost more than $10,000 per endpoint, and the screen technology would have cost twice what it is now. Vu is one of many companies bringing high-quality HD video conferencing to SMBs at a price performance point that is somewhat revolutionary, making it affordable for SMBs for the first time. Vu is making the technology available for a small down payment and fixed monthly price, which is how many businesses want to buy it."
In the SMB space, said Lichtman, "We are seeing early adopters like doctors and dentists with multiple offices put one in each office, providing 'windows' to the other office. Consultants who have ongoing relationships with many companies are using them to collaborate remotely."
The Vu TelePresence Pro is currently available, MSRP $1,499 or leased for $49.99/month, display not included. The Premiere is MSRP $2,299 with a 50-inch display, or $74.99/month, or $3,299 including a 60-inch display, or leased for $109.99/month.
Vu also announced Vu TelePoint locations -- remote access conference suites available by the hour, equipped with Vu TelePresence systems -- in major cities including New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Irvine, Oakland and Boston.