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Teledining: Then and Now

December 5, 2012 | David S. Maldow, Esq.

teledining now.png There is nothing like the business lunch. We feel an undeniable increased connection with someone after sharing a good meal with them. This can often serve to smooth the wheels of business. A good meal is like a good videoconferencing meeting; it is all about the experience. While we all fun this year at Thanksgiving, passing around iPhones with Facetime sessions to remote family, we can't really call that teledining. Proper teledining should (as much as possible) attempt to simulate a normal, across the table, business lunch; just as a proper telepresence solution should simulate a normal, across the table business meeting. BCC recently covered a Beijing teledining room in the video below


Although the BCC reporter appeared to be completely surprised by the concept, teledining is not new. Telepresence pioneers and TeleSuite co-founders David Allen and Herold Williams originally developed a teledining experience creating private dining rooms with integrated projected telepresence in Hilton hotels including the Hilton Washington DC, the Waldorf-Astoria, New York City, and the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills back in the mid 1990s (although the picture below appears to be from the 1890s).

teledining then.png
The world was not ready for teledining, but it was certainly a good learning experience for the industry. We caught up with Herold to ask him what he remembers about this early attempt at teledining.

"I think the cost was about $150 per hour for each end. We started to install them in Hilton Hotels around 1994 or 1995. As I recall they were in the Waldorf Astoria, Washington Hilton, Hilton Palmer House in Chicago, Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, San Francisco Hilton and a few others.

Remember that this was the first multi-camera/multi-codec system ever created. It used the CLI Rembrandt codecs weighting in at a 75 pounds and monster CRT projectors. They ran over dedicated T1s and worked great." - TeleSuite Co-Founder Herald Willams

steak-lobsterteledining.jpgThere are three basic ways to go about creating a Teledining solution. You bring food into your organization's telepresence room, should you be so lucky to have one. The second option is to have catering for a rented Telepresence Room (which can cost approximately $400 to $500 per site per hour, not including the food). I personally like the last option, which is starting with a restaurant and installing VC capabilities. That way you get the ambiance and atmosphere of a restaurant and it feels like a real "break" from the meeting room. Fleming's Steakhouse appears to be going for this approach, by offering private Cisco-powered Teledining rooms at 64 of its locations for about $250 (with optional recording for an additional $100). The surf and turf pic on the right is off of their menu, so if anyone wants to Teledine with me, I am ready to order.

About the Author
David_Maldow, Esq.David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate editor at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their telepresence, videoconferencing, and visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter and Google+.

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