March 13, 2012

What is wrong with telepresence?

On the surface, a person would think that video conferencing's bigger brother, telepresence, would be in high demand. The cost of travel and the toll it takes on your body and mind should make anyone want to be able to hop in a conference room in their home office and have a face to face meeting with someone across the country or across the world. But telepresence is not in use as much as it could or should be. Why?


Simple enough. A new system was introduced this week. Without knowing the price I estimated quite high in my opinion at $150,000. This is a three screen system for six total people, roughly "the same" as Cisco's offering or the Polycom OTX (minus the back wall and lighting). The price on this new system? A mind blowing $260,000. My jaw literally dropped when I found that out. The single, and apparently the most important thing because it's touted in press releases and videos the most are how thin the bezels are between screens. It's not as if this is a new or expensive thing as video cubes have been around a long time.

More of an effort should be placed on driving down the cost of systems like these. Of course, recouping engineering and R&D costs are necessary, but on a physical level, this product is really not that different from the systems I mentioned above. Three cameras, three displays, attached table seating six people. Nothing spectacular in this to warrant this price tag unless the goal was to not make it inexpensive so the public does not perceive this as an inferior product. Yes, I have heard that argument before and I hate it. Either build something better for the same cost or build the same thing for much cheaper. Or the best, build something better for cheaper, not the other way around.