A new product called TelyHD revives the idea of using HDTVs – undoubtedly the biggest display panels found in homes – to make video calls that are literally high definition. Made by startup Tely Labs, the set-top device that looks eerily similar to Microsoft’s Kinect controller contains a wide-angle high-definition webcam that turns HDTVs into videophones that connect calls via Skype.
Networking giant Cisco earlier marketed a gadget called ümi that is intended for making HDTV calls. However, the high cost of the device and service ($599 for the unit and a monthly service fee of $24.99) apparently deterred wide acceptance. Besides, one has to connect to another HDTV equipped with the same gadget to make video calls, and most people don’t know anyone else using the device – so there is no real incentive for people to buy. Cisco eventually ditched the product due to dismal sales.
Taking a more realistic tack, the manufacturer sells TelyHD for $249, with no additional monthly fees. The system instead uses the vast Skype network that handles roughly more than 300 million minutes of calls each day. TelyHD targets people who now make video calls using computers, tablets or smartphones, as talking to life-size images of your loved ones is definitely a more immersive and enriching experience than looking into a small computer or phone screens.
The device allows users to access their contacts and make voice and video calls on their HDTVs through Skype. The other party must also be on a Skype-enabled device (computer or smartphone) or another TV equipped with TelyHD. The process of initiating a call or answering one is similar when using Skype in computers, the main difference is that one is able to use a remote in TelyHD, to do tasks like starting or ending a call, pulling up pictures from the built-in SD slot to show onscreen, or zooming and panning images, doing all these while one sits comfortably on the sofa. Users can even leave voice mails with video for other TelyHD-enabled users in case they are not around to take your calls.
While the device in its present iteration is far from perfect, particularly with regard to the HD claim (images are somewhat fuzzy even when both parties are using TellyHD), it is nonetheless a remarkable improvement in communication technology. Things are indeed looking up for people who have loved ones scattered around the globe as soon enough, people in different places can talk and virtually interact with one another as if they are in the same room.
Read Time magazine’s review of TelyHD here.