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TelePresence @ Home

February 4, 2009 | Chris Payatagool

Just before Christmas, a big pallet of Cisco gear arrived at my house. It was my own TelePresence system for my office. A stripped down version of our CTS-1000 product. It consists of a "normal" CPU-sized chassis (referred to as the codec), a HD camera, speakers, microphone, and IP phone. I am using a 24" Dell monitor for the display instead of a big flat panel. Fits better on my desk!

skybeam.jpg
Now, the only thing that I had to bring to the table was the bandwidth. That was the hard part. You can't get the type of bandwidth you need for TelePresence via DSL or cable. You are going to be pushing 1080 or 720p video real-time while receiving at the same time. Oh, yeah -- and it is over a VPN tunnel so you have encryption in there too. Synchronous transfer at those rates are not easy to come by. Luckily, my ISP, Skybeam, was able to deliver -- after some work. Initially, we weren't seeing the speeds but with some encouragement, Skybeam got me all tweaked out and the speeds went up dramatically. The technology they use is called "fixed wireless". This is not Wi-Fi. There is basically a line-of-sight RF connection from my house to a POP that is about a mile from my house. Here is the antennae up on my roof. See no wires!


Here is what I am now getting on a local speed test to their POP. Nice!

speedtest.jpg
Here is another run against Speedtest.net to Denver. I have seen higher (and lower) but this is a good average.


speedtest2.png
So now from my touch screen IP phone on my desk, I can dial up my co-workers!



cisco_telepresence_phone.jpg

And they show up in all their HD beauty. I just roll my chair back a bit and it is like I am in the office with them. My boss has a screen in his office on the wall so for those impromptu meetings, they can just bring me up "on the wall" and it is like I am right there. Minus the 1/2 day of travel! Here is a meeting from today featuring Steven the Amusing -- available for parties and gatherings.

hd_cisco.jpg

The only trick that I don't have down is the lighting. You need a lot of light to look good on camera. But you don't want a big spotlight in your face. And it has to be natural light or you look weird. And you don't want big hot lights in your face. So I picked up some Xenon under counter lights from Lowe's and flipped them on edge. Now I just flip them on when I go on camera and it seems to give good enough light.

Now, the thing I am most looking forward to is actually travel. Huh? Doesn't this prevent travel? Yeah, but now when I do go to San Jose for meetings, I can have a TelePresence call in the evenings with the wife and kids. Will take a book to read to the kids. Then my wife and I can see what new angles this brings to our phone conversation. Hint hint. Oh wait, that might get me fired. "Why were you naked in the 3rd floor conference room, Mr. Fuller?", says HR. "Um...umm...changing the way I work, live and PLAY!".

Oh, and I still don't shower and I wear my PJs most of the day. Keeping it real.

[via Brandon Fuller]






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