On August 22, 2006, I wrote an article titled Terrorism, Oil, Globalization, and the Impact of Computing. The article described how four seemingly unrelated forces had emerged in the last few years to create a quadruple inflection point that unleashed massive new market dynamics. Take a moment to go back and read that article.
Just 3 weeks later, Google responded exactly to the market needs described in the article by adding immersive travel content into Google Earth, enabling users to have a moderately immersive experience of any location in the world, from the comfort of their own homes.
But the first article also described another segment of this market :
While the life blood of business is the firm handshake, face-to-face meeting, and slick presentation, the quadruple inflection point above might just permanently elevate the bar that determines which meetings warrant the risks, costs, and hassle of business travel when there are technologies that can enable many of the same interactions. While these technologies are only poor substitutes now, improved display quality, bandwidth, and software capabilities will greatly increase their utility.
And sure enough, on October 23, or just 2 months after the original article here on The Futurist, Cisco has announced their 'TelePresence' HD video conferencing system, which is a huge advancement over contemporary videoconference technologies. It consists of three HD screens where conference participants are displayed in life-sized images.
While the optimal experience requires both parties to have the system, limiting the opportunities for it's use in the near future, as more corporations adopt the system, using it becomes a routine practice in an increasing number of corporate settings. Corporations will be able to save a decent portion of time and cost of employee business travel, and redeploy those savings into R&D. Cisco itself expects to reduce business travel by 20%, saving $100 million per year. If each of the Fortune Global 500 corporations adopted it, they would save anywhere from $20 to $80 Billion per year.
The full system with three screens, cameras, and high-speed networking equipment costs $300,000. However, almost all of the components of the system are full member technologies of the Impact of Computing, and hence the same system is bound to cost under $50,000 by 2011, and perhaps much less. Cisco expects the market to reach $1 billion in annual revenue by 2011, which would amount to 20,000 units per year. Eventually, prices for a single screen version (currently $80,000) might reach just $2000 by 2015, making them common household items, allowing more people to work from home and untethering them from living in expensive geographies against their preference.
Two substantial innovations from Google and Cisco have emerged in just two months since the original article. It is fascinating to watch the modern innovation economy adapt so rapidly to a new market need. There will be much more to marvel over in the coming months and years.
Update (2/20/07) : A slideshow from BusinessWeek has more pictures.