Cisco has a "Jewel" of a way to map its tech future

Studio where Jewel will perform at Cisco Systems in San Jose
April 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of fans of country singer Jewel will be in Las Vegas this afternoon to hear her do an hour-long performance. However, Jewel will be performing from a specially equipped studio at Cisco Systems in San Jose. She will interact with the audience, taking requests and questions, almost as though she were on stage in front of them. The concept isn't exactly new. People use two-way Internet video, such as Skype, all the time. But this will be a bold demonstration of how technology can replicate the "presence" and dynamics of a live show over multiple locations.

Additional audiences will interact with Jewel from nine other locations, including Washington, Dallas, New York and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Cisco will be using its TelePresence system, which was designed to provide video conferencing that makes participants feel as though they're sitting across others at a table, even though they could be hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

Today's demonstration comes one day after Cisco pulled the plug on the once-popular consumer video camera, the Flip, and laid off the 550 people who supported it. Analysts say Cisco didn't succeed at integrating the Flip, a low-cost consumer product, into its mainstream business of providing sophisticated, high-speed networking equipment. Cisco now seems focused on playing to its strengths and not expanding into consumer products.

Cisco spokesman Jim Brady says that pop artists have learned to connect with fans with social media. Jewel, for example, is a Twitter and Facebook user. Now this advanced video system can allow performers to connect in new ways. Perhaps they'll install TelePresence in their home studios, Brady suggests, and do mini-performances for targeted fan groups.

We'll be interviewing Jewel this afternoon and will be getting an up-close view of her performance ? shooting video inside the studio and inside the control room. We'll also be able to see what the remote audiences are experiencing. The live performance will also be available on the internet from 2:00 to 3:00 PM Pacific time. Here's the link: http://bit.ly/hVcPhZ

Jewel is known not to perform with a set of songs in mind; instead, she prefers to sense what her audience wants to hear next. Today's use of the Cisco technology will be an interesting test to see if she can "read" the audience's collective mind without being in the same room.


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