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Cisco has just introduced its umi (pronounced as you-me) telepresence, a first-of-its-kind consumer product that is designed to bring family and friends together in HD video, regardless of where they are. The system includes an HD camera, a console, a remote, and will take advantage of Cisco’s experience in business telepresence, delivering an immersive experience by automatically adjusting to lighting conditions and various room sizes to provide superior audio and video performance.

The system only needs to be hooked up to an existing HDTV and a wired or wireless broadband connection, after which they will be able to make umi calls, access video messages, manage contacts, customize their profile and settings, not to mention record their own umi videos and share them on social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, or even email. If the other party doesn’t have umi, you’ll still be able to stay in contact by placing and receiving video calls from any computer with a webcam and Google video chat.

Cisco is already working with Verizon to bring the umi experience to Verizon FiOS customers early next year, and the two companies have been conducting successful trials of Cisco umi over Verizon’s fiber-optic network.

The system won’t come cheap, though, as you’ll need to shell out $599 for the hardware, and a monthly fee of $24.99 for unlimited umi calls, video messaging and video storage. It’s currently up for pre-order from Best Buy and Cisco and will begin to ship on November 14th.

In a nutshell, features and benefits of the Cisco umi include:

  • Clear and lifelike full HD experience
  • Only requires an existing HDTV and broadband connection
  • Easy to set up and simple to use
  • Video calls can be placed and received on any computer with a webcam and Google video chat
  • Video messages ensure you don’t miss a umi call
  • Umi videos can be created and shared on social networks
  • New video message notices arrive via text on mobile phones
  • Pan and zoom to get up close and personal
  • Call screening and blocking
  • Camera shutter that can be closed to ensure privacy
  • Personalization with a unique video greeting, ringtones, and calling favorites
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