The concept of people communicating over video is not a new idea. Growing up in the 1960s, I remember several things that illustrated video communications even then.
The first that comes to mind is the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. I remember visiting the fair and playing with AT&T’s version of video conferencing for the home called the “videophone” (see photo). Although it was black and white and the quality was reflective of the time, I remember being mesmerized by the device.
The second example was on a tv show that was near and dear to my heart called “The Jetsons” (1962). Jane used video to communicate with her girlfriend over a device that looked like a TV with some really futuristic antennae coming out of the top (see cartoon). I liked that contraption. Maybe I should recreate it with foil for my ūmi.
The third example is Star Trek (1966). Captain Kirk and the gang used a lot of video from the deck of the Enterprise to communicate with friends and enemies. They also took the concept to another level by moving matter (people) through teleportation. “Beam me up Scottie!” Let’s stick to moving bits at this time.
So the vision of video being used for communications has been around for over 50 years. So why has it taken so long?
During the 80s I witnessed the introduction of video conferencing in the Enterprise but it failed because of four reasons.
1. Cost – $1M+ per room
2. Complexity – needed a staff to connect and maintain
3. Quality – video and audio quality was reasonable but not immersive
4. Limited – few people to connect with and usually limited to a few internal company locations
Because of these factors utilization was low and eventually people stopped using it.
In 2006, Cisco introduced Telepresence (see photo). I still recall the first time I used it in our labs and I knew immediately that everything was going to change in business.
It’s been over four years since my first TelePresence experience and I can tell you the way I work has dramatically changed. I use Telepresence at least five times a week and my travel is down over 80 percent from four years ago.
On the other hand, my meetings with customers and partners have increased significantly and continue to grow as Telepresence gets more ubiquitous.
It’s 2010 and earlier this month Cisco introduced ūmi, which is TelePresence designed for your homes leveraging your HD television and broadband.
I think we have reached a major inflection point with the introduction of the ūmi. TelePresence had a significant impact on business but when we look back 10 years from now it will be miniscule in comparison to the impact that ūmi will have on how we live. High quality video in the home will not only be great for staying in touch with friends and family (the first wave) but I predict that the killer applications will be in healthcare, education and services.
Applications will be developed in healthcare that will be able to determine my mothers well being by simply watching her walk or devices to monitor her blood pressure etc. We will be able to attend classes in any university and college around the world seamlessly. We will be able to get tutored or take our guitar lessons over with teachers that may live in another country. We will watch a football game or in my case, a Yankee game with friends and family that are remote and share the experience together. The options will be endless and as big as our imagination. This video can tell you more about what ūmi is:
I’ve been predicting for a while now that the primary way we will communicate in the future is via video. Video at work, at home and on the go. I think that with the announcement of ūmi my prediction is upon us.
Now that our imagined future we saw in the Jetsons, Star Trek and from At&T is here, it’s time to keep imagining what’s next.
Happy dreaming….. see you all on video!