Meet Cisco UMI, telepresence in your living room

Summary:Pricing for the product, however, is kind of steep - $599 for the set-top box package, along with a $24.99 monthly service fee for unlimited usage. It is available for pre-orders starting today and will be available at Best Buy stores on Nov. 14.

Cisco is looking to bring telepresence to your living room.

Cisco, which has made gains in business with its telepresence technology, is looking to bring that technology to your house. Today, at a press event in San Francisco, the company announced a home telepresence product called Umi (pronounced You-Me).

Gallery: Telepresence meets your HDTV

Here's the trick, though. Cisco says a product like this - just like the enterprise version of it - won't work unless the experience is a good one. Today, as homes are increasingly outfitted with high-speed broadband connections and high-definition television screens, the company said it's time for telepresence in the living room.

Sure. this is a product to bring Grandma and Grandpa into the living room so the kids can showcase their latest school project or model their Halloween costumes.

But Cisco sees it going beyond that. Cisco sees telepresence in the home as the key to new video services for the consumer in areas such as health care, education and government services (statement, Umi site, Cisco blog).

Imagine showing the doctor the allergy reaction rash on your arm, spending an hour with an Algebra tutor or talking to the DMV clerk to process your driver's license renewal.

That's what Umi is about.

Pricing for the product, however, is kind of steep - $599 for the set-top box package, along with a $24.99 monthly service fee for unlimited usage. It is available for pre-orders starting today and will be available at Best Buy stores on Nov. 14.

And if you're looking for a real endorsement, Cisco has signed a deal with Oprah Winfrey to use UMI for her show guests who cannot make it into the studio. The company said it has also reached a deal with Verizon to bring the service to the FiOS network in early 2011.

Cisco CEO John Chambers said:

Cisco umi will bring the unique telepresence experience into living rooms and change the way we are able to be together with family and friends. We envision a future where technologies like this will play a role in connecting consumers with businesses to enable the delivery of new services, ranging from education, to health care, to financial services -- to the home.

    To grasp what Cisco is thinking with Umi check out the company's smart city experiment in Songdo. Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco Systems’ emerging technology group, talked about the Songdo vision and said:

    If you’ve been to Songdo in Korea, it’s amazing what is going on there. Every home will have a Telepresence unit built in like a dishwasher. And it’s the developer that is putting those into those apartments as they get built out, because that is how education, health care and government services will get delivered right into the home. It will come to you. You don’t have to go find it. And that is how they will reduce traffic congestion and pollution in the cities.

    Topics: Cisco

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