"Sound Off!" Does Telepresence Deserve All the Hype?
We'd like to know what you think.
By Charlie Macli, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing IVCi, LLC.
Cisco, HP, and Polycom are all singing the praises of Telepresence video conferencing. In this article we will define Telepresence, as well as discuss some of its merits and shortcomings.
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The Telepresence Experience
For those of you who may have missed the recent announcements, we would like to offer a helpful definition: Telepresence is a video conference in which local and remote participants appear to be in the same room, sitting at the same table. Each person experiences a life-size image of the remote attendees, with the easy to use technology effectively out of sight. The resulting video conference is amazingly realistic.
Customers who have participated in a Telepresence meeting have described the experience as "unbelievable," and one that will certainly satisfy the most demanding and technology-adverse executive. Telepresence has the potential to transform the "video conferencing unbeliever" into a truly satisfied user. The benefits could be huge as travel expense is reduced, productivity is improved, and companies profit from an increase in collaboration throughout the organization.
Cisco, HP, and Polycom's competing versions of the Telepresence experience all have outstanding features--and in some cases significant shortcomings worthy of consideration:
While Telepresence has been with us for some time, its deployment has been limited. Pricing continues to be prohibitive for many potential adopters as current offerings range from $70,000 plus network charges for a 2-user system to $250,000-$500,000 plus network charges for a room of 6 or more participants. With HD video conferencing systems currently retailing for less than $20,000 and the availability of Managed Conferencing Services to simplify their use--is there truly a market for Telepresence?
Single Purpose Room
In the past most video conferencing environments were in reality multipurpose rooms. To achieve the true Telepresence experience, the room must be built as a single-purpose room dedicated to Telepresence. (One of Polycom's larger Telepresence configurations has the potential to be used as a local meeting room.) Given the current cost of office space, could this be a deal breaker for Telepresence?
While the Cisco and HP Telepresence offerings provide very high quality video, they are not compatible with the more than 600,000 video conferencing systems currently estimated to be in use. This limits participation to those with access to Telepresence rooms and excludes those that only have access to a standards-based video conferencing system. Can a company justify the loss of compatibility in exchange for increased quality (i.e. 1080p and higher)?
There is no doubt that Telepresence will appeal to the executives of most of your companies, and there is no doubt that with all the publicity and aggressive sales teams from all of the Telepresence manufacturers that your executives will receive a Telepresence sales pitch. The question you have to ask as the "video conferencing expert" in your company is "What is the best solution for my company--Telepresence, a stand-alone HD system with Managed Conference Services, or a custom HD AV integrated room?"
In fairness to our readers it should be noted that IVCi is a Polycom Certified Platinum Reseller and Certified Service Partner. IVCi sells Polycom's standards-based Telepresence product (RPXTM). As a video conferencing and audio visual integrator, IVCi builds custom collaboration rooms that include many of the features found in a Telepresence environment. We further enhance the Telepresence experience with IVCi's IntelliNet Managed Conferencing Services, providing a fully-managed high-definition meeting experience with no need for participants to interact with the technology.
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