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Cisco Umi Takes Telepresence To The Home

  • The Cisco Umi solution consists of a set top box (video encoder), a remote control, an HD camera (this has multiple bracket sizes for various HD TV size types, or can sit flat on a larger surface), as well as the Umi cloud service (this stores all of the video and includes a configuration portal where you can set up your contacts and share videos).

  • A key Cisco Umi telepresence component is this set top box. This doesn't replace your own set top box -- it connects to it (via HDMI). It's actually mostly an encoding system. Like everything else on in the Umi solution, it was built from the ground up.

  • Another key Cisco Umi telepresence component is the remote, which is used to do everything from zooming and tilting the camera, to pulling up the Umi user interface on the television.

  • Cisco's Umi is intended for the consumer market and will be available via Best Buy starting in November. Best Buy is taking pre-orders now. The hardware costs $599, and the monthly service will be $24.99.

  • The on-TV user interface is a simple unobtrusive clover where you can make a call, accept or block a call, set up contacts, and create profile pictures or video messages. This is controlled from the remote.

  • The Umi set top box connects to the TV (via HDMI), to your DVR or set top box (via HDMI) and to your Internet connection (via Ethernet or Wireless Ethernet), and to the camera via HDMI and USB.

  • Every company from Apple to Microsoft to Facebook to Google has carefully crafted consumer launch events, and Cisco's announcement of its big foray into the home was no exception. The usual press and analyst suspects were there, along with a horde of Cisco PR, an assortment of treats and drinks.

  • Cisco's Umi announcement took place on a stage crafted to feel like a modern living room -- part of its push to capture the emotional and immersive experiences the company says it's solution will provide. The demonstrations and images included plenty of parents, young and old, and lots of children, as the company tried to capture what it thinks will be the demographic for Umi. Cisco also stressed that the retail product will be dead simple to use.

  • Gina Clark is the vice president and GM of Cisco's Consumer Business. She has been in the consumer technology space for many years, including with Logitech where she led the company's webcam business. That Cisco has this unit shows that it's serious about making inroads into the consumer market.

  • Marthin De Beer is Cisco's senior vice president of its emerging technologies group, and he's been at Cisco for 13 years. De Beer talked about Umi's future, beyond just pleasant home-to-home video chats, but potentially offering services like e-health (or "health presence" as Cisco has taken to calling it), wealth management, education and more.