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This startup hopes to make conference calls feel less like the ninth circle of hell


Today a startup called Highfive is unveiling its solution, a $799 gadget that hopes to do for the speakerphone what Nest did for the thermostat. It’s an HD video camera with a four-piece microphone array that connects to any screen with an HDMI input. It’s paired with a modern software package that makes organizing and joining a meeting feel less like the mental equivalent of walking over hot coals. The goal is a mass-market solution that can carve off a big slice of the $3 billion Cisco and Polycom rake in each year selling teleconferencing machines. "It would be amazing to imbue this category with a little bit of sexiness," says CEO Shan Sinha.


Of course, that wasn’t cheap. "They spent $100 million on Cisco gear to get that all to work." That was version one. Google subsequently chucked the Cisco gear and built its own custom box that integrated with Hangouts, which it now sells as a Chromebox packed with some off-the-shelf parts. Highfive is a bit cheaper, integrates all the pieces into a single unit, and doesn’t require a separate remote control or a Google+ account.

"You have all this activity going on to make homes smart. Nest building a new thermostat, Dropcam giving you easy access to monitor your house," says Sinha. At work, however, there has been little of the same revolution, technology that modernizes the stodgy equipment we all interact with on a daily basis. "That’s the product we created."

Stashed in: Google, Nest

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Comparing themselves to Nest is clever.

Who in this world wouldn't want "smart conference calls"?

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