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Another Try at Video Phones for Home

Boot Camp feature for Monday, August 19, 2002

The video phone concept is back in the picture. Bloomberg Boot Camp, a report on today's technology. Video conferencing has been around for a long time. AT&T was showing off the concept at the New York World's Fair nearly 40 years ago. Today, it's mostly used in corporate board rooms. Attempts to make devices for the home... have fallen flat so far. Too much money... for what have been herky jerky pictures at best. Now a company called Vialta is trying again... .with a device that looks like a picture frame that works with your existing phone. CEO Didier Pietri...

"This is Beamer. Beamer is the world's first phone video station. And basically what it does, it plugs directly on your existing phone at home. It works with every phone and it works with any standard analog phone lines at home and it immediately adds video to your phone calls. So the same way you have two phones to be able to call somebody, you need two Beamers to be able to experience the video version.

The color transmissions aren't perfect, but they are reasonably good. You can opt to send snapshots as well. A package with two Beamers... that will arrive shortly in consumer electronics stores... will sell for five hundred dollars, with additional single units priced at 300. The market for the devices? ...

"It's families that want to stay together, it's relatives, people traveling a lot, they want to stay in touch with their family. They can pack the Beamer in the bag and use it anywhere they are."

Of course, when you answer the phone... you have the option of allowing the caller to see you ... .or not. Bloomberg Boot Camp, I'm Fred Fishkin.