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Vidyo Releases Room Videoconferencing System

Telepresence -" hyper-realistic videoconferencing -" has garnered significant hype in the last two years, and not without reason, but the technology is simply too expensive for most companies to afford. Videoconferencing start-up Vidyo sees an important niche that isn't being filled, and hopes to fill that gap with its VidyoRoom HD-220, a high-definition, room-based videoconferencing system announced Monday. The cost is a fraction of the $250,000 it might cost to get a high-end Cisco telepresence system running.

A complete videoconferencing room based on the HD-220, which costs $6,995 for the endpoint itself, adds up to about $25,000 to $30,000 when high-definition cameras and screens, high-quality audio, and the traffic-shaping Vidyo router are factored in. It may lack the polish of systems from t Cisco and HP's telepresence offerings, which come as a complete room, but Vidyo offers significant bang for the buck.

Most legacy videoconferencing systems make use of what's known as a Multipoint Control Unit, a device that combines video, audio, and data streams from multiple endpoints into a single multimedia stream. However, use of an MCU can cause latency and degrade quality beyond what's considered acceptable for a normal phone conversation. The highest-end systems from HP and Cisco have done away with the MCU, but have prohibitive costs. "We looked at that and said, how can we put price in line with consumer expectations," Vidyo co-founder and CEO Ofer Shapiro, who developed the first IP videoconferencing bridge and gatekeeper as a former executive at Radvision, said in an interview.

Vidyo doesn't require an MCU. Instead, it wraps proprietary technology around video encoded with the new Scalable Video Coding standard, which greatly increases error correction and improves the end product, doing away with the blips and artifacts that are all too common in videoconferences and especially in online video.

SVC adds information about things like bitrate and resolution to encoded videos that can then be used to shape traffic at the packet level via software running on the Vidyo Router. Legacy videoconferencing encoding, in contrast, is simpler, and doesn't enable such error containment.

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