Cisco rolls out low-end telepresence system

CTS 1300 has price tag of under $89,000

At VoiceCon Orlando, Cisco Systems Inc. plans to announce a less expensive telepresence system designed for deployment in existing teleconference rooms without upgrading them to accommodate top-of-the-line telepresence equipment.

Called CTS 1300, the system consists of a 65-in. high-definition screen and three high-definition cameras mounted above a coder-decoder. The unit is installed against a wall and is 9 in. deep.

Cisco says the device costs less than $89,000; in comparison, its top-shelf room telepresence system that costs more than $300,000.

If three people are in the room with the CTS 1300, each individual can have a camera trained on him, but only the image of the current speaker is presented to the screens at other sites participating in the conference. A full-blown room telepresence system would have three screens in a room built to accommodate speakers, microphones lighting and décor to match all the other telepresence rooms owned by a customer.

The idea is to create the impression that all participants are in the same room sitting across the table from one another. The setup includes cameras mounted in a way that makes it look as though the participants in different locations are looking each other in the eye.

CTS 1300 can send and receive at 1080p resolution and drop down to 720p for sites with less than 2Mbit/sec. network bandwidth. The device also supports a technology Cisco calls 720p Light that runs over 1.5Mbit/sec. links such as T-1 circuits at 30 frames per second. It does this by grabbing bandwidth dedicated to data transmissions for the conference and slowing the data rate to one frame per second.

The light version can run over DSL or cable connections as well but its quality might not be as good without guaranteed 1.5Mbit/sec. bandwidth. Teleworkers can use Cisco Virtual Office, a VPN link to a corporate office that supports VoIP and includes switching, routing and wireless connectivity.

CTS 1300 is the first in a product line that will include models with smaller screens or just a single camera, for instance, Cisco says.

Cisco competitor Tandberg has a 720p resolution video system called Profile with one screen that costs $38,900 that can be boosted to 1080p with a high-definition add-on. Tandberg's low-end telepresence system costs $69,900.

Cisco is also introducing Recording Studio, an application that runs on Cisco telepresence systems that makes it possible to use the gear to produce high-quality prerecorded videos for mass viewing. Recording Studio includes a server that hosts the videos, and those that want to view it can do so by responding to its URL.

The application is supported by the telepresence conference phone that will include a record button similar to the connect button they already have to initiate conferences. Recording studio is priced not to exceed $100,000 Cisco says.

The company is also introducing Event Control, which enables live direction of a telepresence conference. If a conference includes a guest speaker, that person's image can be kept on the screen at all times regardless of who is talking. Telepresence sessions generally display the last talkers. A prototype of that technology was used at Cisco's VoiceCon keynote last year to allow former Vice President Al Gore to participate via videoconference and endorse the use of telepresence gear as a way to reduce the energy spent traveling to and from conferences.

Cisco is also demonstrating any-to-any sessions between its telepresence sites and high-definition videoconferencing gear. The key feature of this interoperability is that it does not reduce the resolution to the level of any of the participating equipment. Those sites capable of telepresence will maintain telepresence connections with other sites that also support it.

This story, "Cisco rolls out low-end telepresence system" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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