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TelePresence is way better than you think it is

TelePresence is a next-generation video-conferencing offering from Cisco, and you really have to see this stuff to believe it.

Have you seen Cisco System's TelePresence? If you haven't, you should. TelePresence is a next-generation video-conferencing offering from Cisco and to call TelePresence "technology" minimizes its scope. TelePresence includes television monitors, desks, chairs, and everything you need for connectivity. Once installed, you get a Star Trek-like experience. Cameras react to voices and focus on the person speaking. Television monitors display remote participants across a virtual table as if they were in the same room. Geek heaven!

TelePresence is nothing like any video-conferencing technology I've ever seen or thought about. The first time I heard about TelePresence was in a presentation by Cisco Chief Development Officer Charlie Giancarlo. When describing TelePresence, Charlie talked about the AT&T "picture phones" at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Since I am originally from the New York area and about Charlie's age, I thought about small TV screens on red phones that may or may not have had dials on them.

Charlie's historic comparison made TelePresence personal for me but I had no idea just how far things have progressed. As an adult who has now been in the tech industry for 20 years, I dismissed TelePresence as the newest version of those dopey PictureTel video hookups of the early 1990s.

My point is this: technology has evolved so quickly that our personal analogs are extremely narrow and may be nothing like the real thing of today. By equating TelePresence with 1964 AT&T phones and PictureTel, I completely eschewed TelePresence until I saw it in action. This presents a challenge to Cisco as I'm sure there are lots of folks like me who remember the agony and stupidity of those early video conferences.

Cisco found that the best way to convince skeptical customers of the power of TelePresence was with live demos. Like the futuristic theme of the 1964 World's Fair, technology has progressed to a point where you have to see this stuff to believe it.