Charlie Giancarlo on telepresence at VoiceCon

This morning’s keynote speech at VoiceCon by Cisco’s Charlie Giancarlo was polished and entertaining. What jumped out for me was his description of telepresence. He had just demoed video phone calls, then went on to telepresence. My immediate thought was, “yes, a video phone call with a bigger screen.” But Charlie must have met this reaction before because he started to stress the radical nature of telepresence. As you know, telepresence is the idea of putting a bunch of big-screen LCDs around a conference table so it looks as though people are sitting there. HP and Dreamworks have had a system called Halo for a couple of years, but it’s hugely expensive.

Charlie’s point about the novelty of telepresence is that you have to experience it to understand it. He said that after a few minutes of a meeting, you forget that the person isn’t really there, and the subjective nature of the interaction is that it is face-to-face.

The second surprise from Charlie was that the Cisco version of telepresence has a total cost of around $10,000 per month per telepresence room. This seems to be a lot lower than the cost of Halo.

I can believe that you have to experience it to understand it, because of Tivo. TV viewing is a completely different (and much better) experience with Tivo. Tivo owners are all evangelists. They tell their Tivo-less friends that they will love it if they just try it. The friends believe it, but they don’t bother to get a Tivo. Then, when they do, their reaction is “why didn’t you tell me?” and they become ignored evangelists, too. But I still don’t have a Slingbox.

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