Vidyo Intros Low-Cost, HD Telepresence

VidyoPanorama can send high-resolution video to as many as 20 screens and at 10% of the cost of high-end telepresence systems, the company claims.

Robert Mullins

June 8, 2011

4 Min Read
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Cisco Umi

Cisco Umi

Slideshow: Cisco Umi Takes Telepresence To The Home(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Vidyo, a company whose technology delivers high-definition videoconferencing images to a variety of end point devices, is introducing VidyoPanorama, which the company says can send high-resolution video to as many as 20 screens and at 10% of the cost of telepresence systems. Vidyo, in launching Panorama Wednesday, said it uses technology that delivers the appropriate image over a corporate network or the Internet to each end point device, whether it's a telepresence studio, a conventional desktop computer, or even a smartphone.

VidyoPanorama delivers a 1080p signal, the same resolution as for high-definition TV, at a rate of 60 frames per second, which means movement in a videoconference is sharp and not blurry or jittery. By comparison, analog TV operates at 420p. The improved resolution and frame rate makes for better communication between various meeting participants who are usually in distant cities.

"Having visual cues in a conversation is very useful. Seventy-eight percent of communications are visual," said Ashish Gupta, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of corporate development for Vidyo.

Vidyo uses a technology called scalable video coding (SVC), which sends the video signal over a conventional corporate network or the Internet and delivers only the signal needed for each unique end point device, Gupta said.

Given the flexibility of SVC, videoconferencing costs can be substantially lower than with high-end telepresence systems, which can cost as much as $500,000 for cameras, lighting, and a studio and doesn't easily scale, because each additional studio costs about the same to equip, Gupta said. On top of that, telepresence requires a dedicated high-bandwidth network connection that can cost from $5,000 to $7,000 per month, versus $1,500 to $4,000 a month for a Vidyo connection of 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps.

For that much money, though, telepresence systems still have their limitations. Typically, the image is split into four quadrants, one for each of three participants and a fourth quadrant for data such as a PowerPoint presentation. However, if a fourth person joins the conference, the image of one of the first three disappears.The VidyoPanorama service can accommodate up to nine images at once, and when the system was demonstrated for a reporter, he was unable to tell which of the participants were on an expensive telepresence system and which were on a simple desktop computer Web camera.

Vidyo also eliminates an annoying glitch in telepresence systems called the "coughing effect," Gupta said. In a typical telepresence system, the image of the person speaking is most prominent on the screen, but when someone else inadvertently coughs, their image suddenly becomes prominent.

As video conferencing gains in popularity, people are now using Internet video calling and conferencing services such as Skype, which, while mostly free, are based on "best effort" image delivery, which could vary.

Video conferencing is expected grow as the technology evolves. A Gartner report estimates that by 2015, more than 200 million workers globally will run corporate supplied videoconference from their desktops.

VidyoPanorama also also leaves a smaller footprint on the corporate network, requiring only a maximum 6U server installation, versus as much as an 114U installation for a traditional multi-point control unit (MCU) server, said Gupta.

Vidyo was in the news last week when HP announced it was selling its Visual Collaboration video conferencing business to Polycom, another provider of telepresence and other video conferencing systems. HP's products were based on Vidyo SVC technology. Gupta explained that while HP was selling Vidyo-based Visual Collaboration products, it was also a reseller of Polycom systems to HP customers. That put HP in competition with partner Polycom, which is why Polycom agreed to acquire the Visual Collaboration business. Polycom is also acquiring HP's Halo high-end telepresence studio system business.

Pricing for VidyoPanorama starts at just under $40,000 for a system that delivers 720p resolution at 60 frames person, and a maximum of four screens, and ranges up to nearly $60,000 for a system that delivers 1080p resolution, 60 frames, and up to nine screens at once.

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