Cisco's $250K TelePresence vs. a cheaper do-it-yourself option

There's an interesting story by Tim Greene today questioning whether we really need to spend the $250,000-plus for a

high-end telepresence setup from Cisco and others, and whether we couldn't build our own from buying standard gear and spending more on the elements that help make videoconferencing jump from the hum-drum to the wow.

According to Greene's story, audio is the most important factor in videoconferencing and customers could pick up $2,000 worth of microphones in tabletops and speakers in ceilings to improve the sound. Similarly, businesses can improve video by installing bigger screens to boost the size of the images of participants. Once you have that, do you really need to have identical furniture, room decor and lighting in all your videoconferencing locations to give the illusion that all participants are in the same room? What's important to the participants - noticing that there all the potted plants are coordinated around the different videoconferencing locations, or that participants can hear and see each other clearly?

It would be interesting to see if there has been a study on the psychological aspect of telepresence and whether all the add-ons are necessary to ensure meetings are effective - after all, even the smartest telepresence system can't turn a lousy meeting leader into an effective one.

See also: Siemens targets Cisco TelePresence with lower-cost alternative on a common platform

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