When In Peoria, Have Dinner In Rome

ENVISION THIS: YOU'RE SITTING AROUND A TABLE ENJOYING a fine meal with friends or colleagues--who are thousands of miles away. A new "teledining" service created by IBM and Teleport Corp. may soon make such epicurean encounters practical.

It's more than just videoconferencing. The companies use a table-to-ceiling screen, life-size images, and innovative "video mirror" technology to give the feeling of sitting across the table from remote participants. The video mirror reflects the same decor as the room you are in, so that the screen appears as an extension of your table. And camera and microphones are hidden from view. The result: a more natural and relaxed videoconference.

IBM's Global Network handles the video transmissions. Teleport, based in Englewood, Ohio, is providing the conferencing software. IBM and Teleport are talking with hotels and restaurants about offering teledining suites, which will cost $150,000 apiece to construct. They plan to roll out the service this fall and expect to set up 120 suites equipped for teledining in 40 U.S. cities over the next two years. Customers will be able to call an 800 number to reserve a teledining suite. An hour-long conference call will cost anywhere from $69 to $150--not including the meal, of course. Bon appetit!

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