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June 2, 2008

Teleconference, with a difference

GLOBAL – I’m pretty excited because this week we’re going to have a video conference. Now, that notion isn’t a new one. We use iChat AV all the time and it works brilliantly. What I’m excited about is Halo. It’s HP’s answer to the future of video conferencing. And, it’s Nokia’s answer to saving the planet, or at least a bit of it.

The idea is simple. Make video conferencing better, reduce the need for people to get on planes. Nokia has in excess of 60,000 employees in offices all over the world. We saw recently how colleagues from three different locations (Finland, England and the USA) worked together on the same project. That’s going to happen more, not less. So, Nokia is rolling out a Halo suites in its offices around the world to make that easier, and better. Plus, getting on a plane is such a drag.

So, what’s so different about Halo? Firstly, it’s designed so that it feels like you’re actually all in the same room. Each suite consists of a series of flat panel TVs, a row of seats and half a table. Why only half a table? Well the other half is wherever you want it to be (in the other suite). Up to four suites can come together in one meeting, making true global collaboration a breeze. And, the quality is such that it does (we’re told) actually feel like you’re in the same room. You can even do close ups of objects or documents so everyone can see or read the same thing.

There’s a little snip of Halo in action during the spoof video Yahoo!’s Jerry Yang did for the AllThingsD conference last week. The video is worth a watch anyway, but check out Halo towards the end (fast forward to 3:07 if you want).

Now, although this is quite exciting for us (and kudos to Nokia for being one of the big corps to roll this out) what I really want is a stab at some holographic video conferencing. I watched David Blaine pull off a trick a while back using some clever holographic video tech, but more recently Cisco demoed its new holographic video conferencing technology, showing off just how far you can take this whole thing.