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HPL/Cisco Video Review: In Sight But Out Of Mind

We laughed. We cried. We had our own version of a "telepresence moment" and felt bad for Jennifer. We learned that John Chambers cracks a can of pop to get attention at meetings. We explain...

Conferencing News has been copied and imitated but we don't care; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And some of these imitators are our industry friends who go on to provide different and valuable services in the market. Our news gathering publication has been copied by several groups, and many different editorial nuances and phrases from our blog postings have been copied or borrowed and twisted. We honestly don't care as it's like your kid brother stealing your candy and we know who still rules. But yesterday we found a copycat of our YouTube video techniques. When it comes to copying our video style, we really have to caution imitators that such copy-catting is dangerous to do at home. We're the first ones to acknowledge, laugh at really, that our jerky, one-take video style sucks, and it's sorta weird it's now being imitated. Check out our YouTube video about the LifeSize video conferencing system and then compare it to this recent video above from the Human Productivity Lab about Cisco's Telepresence system. Opening scenes of company signage? Check. Music overlays with funny-fast-forward walks through the halls to the video rooms for interviews? Check. HPL's new age spiritual music doesn't really mix with funny fast-forward walkers, but we digress. ...Heck, even we said to bring a Chuckie bag and HPL's swirling opening has the same requirement. We wonder: In this video, did Howard the Host ask out Jennifer the Marketer to dinner like we did of the Casting Director at the end of our video? ...Anyway, on to our review.

It's cute and not just a little ironic to see Cisco's TelePresence promoted on YouTube, particularly given that Cisco trashes other forms of video like "videoconferencing." On YouTube, viewers watch, viewers listen, viewers learn. And viewers don't pay a thing for it. The video and audio quality of the content of these highly compressed, homemade YouTube videos juxtaposed against what is being said in the videos is weirdly inconsistent. The underlying message in the grainy YouTube video is that 1080p-telepresence-systems unleash the value of video productivity in a way that makes all other video totally inferior and less valuable. Really? I'm watching YouTube and learning about this sophisticated product. Huh. With all this dissing of "videoconferencing" (and by extension, inferior video like YouTube) by a few telepresence promoters it's simply an inconsistent message.

Phil the Product Manager gave an exceptionally good overview of the Cisco CTS 3000 Telepresence System. (She sells sea shells and Cisco CTS 3000 Telepresence Systems by the seashore.) Well spoken and hitting all the key points, we give Phil high marks on what "appears" to be an exceptionally good videoconferencing system. (Thank grainy YouTube.)

We felt bad for Jennifer the Marketer. It was difficult to hear her in the remote location in her bit part (because of the production quality, not the Cisco system) and the interview proceeded on between Howard and Phil while she just sat there, sort of ignored. (She's "there," right guys?) After a brief demo, she sits in the background, looking to the side and sort of twiddling her thumbs. She's in sight, but out of mind. Though Howard the Host, mostly with his back to her, seemingly turns to her briefly at the end, no thank-you or goodbyes are said to Jennifer at the end of the video, even though both Howard and Phil can "see" and "hear" her. Nothing is said to her, even though she's "there." In fact, not only is Howard's body turned away from Jennifer, but this promotional video is shot with Jennifer sitting there behind Howard's back, furthering the sense that she's just not present, or doesn't really matter. It's a double whammy of disconnectedness and feels impolite. .

Recommendation to the industry: When you're touting telepresence systems and their life like "visual cues" that mimic real life in-person meetings, don't do a video of live telepresence meetings and ignore and not say goodbye to the person at the remote location, notwithstanding you're slightly out of the camera angle. It negates the selling pitch. If Jennifer were in the same place at Phil's side, Howard, presumptively we hope, would have acknowledged Jennifer too and said thanks and goodbye. But Jennifer was connected afar by so-called telepresence - and fully visible and audible - yet Howard still didn't bother to say anything to her. It's a telling and unconscious moment, and it repudiates that which is promoted. So remember, kids, manners still matter in mediated meetings, even if you have to fake connectedness.

Tidbits: A "telepresence moment" is explained anecdotally in the video and it's where people at remote locations respond instinctually to audio and visual happenings at the other location. Phil says in one videoconference everyone turned their head when CEO John Chambers cracked a can of pop. (We'd guess they thought it was the sound of his commanding finger snapping, but we won't quibble.) Somebody spills a bottle of water and people are startled. (April Fool's Idea for Cisco employees: Bring in squirt guns.) We've heard previously about the guy who gets up to shake hands to close the deal. Someday, maybe all of life will be telepresented in telepresence, so you don't have to go to that darn baseball field with all that fresh air and smelly grass. Eww.

The Cisco CTS 3000 Telepresence System sells for $299,000 which includes the displays, the cameras, the furniture, lighting structures. Chairs are not included. Remember this price when this product is featured on the Price is Right and you're sitting at home watching a contestant bid in the Showcase Showdown. (Do we ever not make references to pop TV? Brady Bunch, Dark Shadows, and now the Price is Right? Sheesh, a hat trick in the last three posts.)

Our video ratings:

Production Quality: C- ...Stylistic copycatter; opening spin almost made us puke, music choice is more appropriate for yoga session in Vermont or a spa with a rock garden and tiny manmade ponds with Koi fish in Santa Fe; couldn't hear Jennifer.

Content: A+ ...An excellent, thorough, and articulate overview of the Cisco CTS TelePresence System. It's seems like it's one heck of a system. We're impressed with the hard work and thoughtful design.

Acting: F ...The host should never turn his back to a person in his "presence" and should always say thanks and go