Cisco unveils Umi: TelePresence gadget for consumers

Huge TVUmi is a piece of hardware developed by Cisco that will allow people to connect and videoconference with one another using their HD television.

Umi will need to be acquired and installed by homeowners interested in getting up close and personal with friends and family members that also have Umi installed.

Umi comes with high-definition camera with embedded microphone, a set-top box and remote. Consumers will be required to use their own HD television. Users will also need a high speed internet connection.

Umi is entering into the VoIP market, taking on Skype and Google, bringing a significantly better picture to users. But it comes at a price. Umi hardware will cost $599 with a monthly subscription of $24.99.

At that price point, the device could be a hard sell for families that would need to ensure their family members were also ready to pay that amount. Analysts agree, with Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros., saying that while Umi is a step ahead of Skype’s video capabilities, its hefty price point will prevent widespread adoption.

For those curious or eager enough to experience telepresence at home, Umi will be available as of November 14th at Best Buy.

While Cisco tries to capture a piece of the market, Logitech announced today their own HD teleconference product, Logitech Review, that will work in conjunction with Google TV.

“We believe consumers want the best and most seamless experience which means HD video calling not only from TV to TV, but also TV to PC or Mac (or vice versa),” Erik Kintz, VP and general manager of Logitech’s video business, said in a statement.

“We also believe consumers will want a free service and one that is integrated into a broader entertainment experience, which is why Logitech is excited to introduce an integrated HD video calling offering with Google TV.”