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US Patent #7,184,559

We just got off the the phone with Santa's elves and gave them a stop-work order on the telepresence systems they're building by the end of this year for kids who have dads who are hedge fund managers and who are divorced. (We're half-joking. Courts in states like New Jersey are viewing simple webcam conferencing between father and child as a bona fide way to stay emotionally connected in the context of a mother's petitioning for relocation, away from the father.)

Our note of caution to the elves snapping together the off-the-shelf components of telepresence systems is to check out how they're rigging up the mics and speakers, so as to make sure they're not stepping on newly published US patent number 7,184,559: System and Method for Audio Telepresence. Assigned to Hewlett-Packard Development Company, LP and listing as the inventor Norman Jouppi (pictured) it was first filed on February of 2001 and granted on February 27, 2007.

In the "background of the invention" section, we find this when describing the intellectual property: "The overall experience for the user of a telepresence system is similar to video-conferencing, except that the user of the telepresence system is able to remotely change the viewpoint of the video capturing device." (Ahhhh. Now we get it.) It's interesting to see the cast of characters and attendant systems and methods in previously issued patents cited as prior art, with their various claims of audio within "teleconferencing" and "video-conferencing" and such. And in the realm of telepresence, it's interesting to see the patents issued relating principally to haptic technology and robotics, thus far anyway.

A cursory search of related patents shows others have been granted intellectual ownership on improving and spatially modifying sound in a room from remote location(s), including, of course, several speaker phone manufacturers. The vision manifested in this patent of variously arrayed mics and speakers and coding techniques in a (presumptively) specifically-designed hermetically sealed, oxygen infused acoustically treated room connecting another remote room wherein the sounds and images sync up to reflect real-life dynamics seems further reaching than what's now on the market. Such a tricked-out "room" for videoconferencing is really a "pod." It's an environmentally engineered capsule for life-like, remote, electronically mediated meetings. It's "podcasting!!!" But Apple's metaphor marketing beat out these later literal descriptions and it's too late to call it podcasting. We'll stick with video conferencing. And it's getting better and better.