Thinking Again About Vidyo

This post continues the journey to figure out how to get videoconferencing in the 21st century classrooms in our county. I’ve been learning about Vidyo over the last several months. Here are some early posts: first learning about Vidyo, and Craig’s comments about the future of VC in schools, and the results of the fall experiment with Vidyo hosted by Craig.

Pros

  • Quality. Everytime I see Vidyo I am amazed at the quality. I’ve seen it under a variety of conditions, including the pretty low quality of conference bandwidth at our MACUL workshop and it has been excellent.
  • Easy Link. More like a webinar, when you want to participate, the host sends you a link to click and after a little download you are up & running. It’s really easy. Imagine sending this link to an author or expert to talk to your students.
  • Mac and PC. It works on both the Mac and the PC, which is an essential feature for our use.
  • H323 connectivity through a gateway. This is both a pro and a con, but at least it includes H323 connectivity! That is also a must for us!

Cons

  • CPU intensive. It requires a newer computer and in some cases you may have to close all the other applications in order for Vidyo to run well.
  • Echo-cancellation. The echo-cancellation isn’t totally there yet, but I know they are working on it and it keeps getting better.
  • Cost structure. The more I learn about other server based videoconference tools, the less I’m excited about Vidyo. If you have your own server, there is an annual license for the software, as well as the cost per download. However, you could also access Vidyo through a reseller and depending on their plans, just pay for the use you have. However, this scenario seems to be designed for much less frequent use of VC than we have.
  • H323 connectivity through a gateway. This is also a con because the gateway is limited in the number of connections it can do. It’s really designed for you to use for mostly Vidyo to Vidyo calls, with a few calls to H323 here and there. Whereas 95% of our calls are off our network via H323. So this solution would drastically limit the number of calls we can do at at time. In addition, a “Hollywood squares” layout within Vidyo doesn’t connect well to a “Hollywood squares” layout on an H323 bridge (the same problem you have with connecting this layout between two H323 bridges).
  • Pet Peeve: Legacy. I do have one little pet peeve about how Vidyo refers to H323. They call anything that is H323 “legacy”. Legacy is a term used in the videoconferencing industry to mean a videoconference system that is no longer supported. For example, our Polycom Viewstations are legacy because there are no more software updates coming out for them. But to call ALL H323 legacy is offensive to me. As if no one else is making anything new in H323. Which obviously isn’t true at all. Calling all H323 stuff legacy is really annoying to me! Just my little quirk I guess!

Conclusion. For our area at least, Vidyo does not seem to be the ideal solution. We do too many calls off our network. However, for meetings or professional development or scenarios where most calls are within a district or region, it may be a potential solution. I just prefer to invest in VC that we can use for all applications: content providers, student projects and collaborations, meetings, professional development, classes, etc.

A Couple Places to Get a Demo

If you want to try it out, you could contact one of these places. I’m sure there are more, so feel free to comment if you want to add to this list.

So what do YOU think? Please comment if you have any additional insights or comments on using Vidyo in K12 education.

19 replies on “Thinking Again About Vidyo”

  1. I connected in to the ASTE conference via Vidyo using a webcam and wireless from my house in February and it was a really good connection. The interface was intuitive, but you are right about the processing power required. I had to close all my other apps.

    I did see this post a while back on the Radvision blog about the specs of a desktop machine. http://bit.ly/cmgvFq

    Roxanne

  2. I understand you comment about Legacy. It is a bit edgy and aggressive on Vidyo’s part. We tend to refer to 323 systems as “traditional”. 🙂

  3. Interesting re-cap of Vidyo and I agree with most of the points –

    A product that may have a better pricing model would be the Mirial ClearSea product – a “virtual” or physical client/server solution that delivers 1080P HD SIP & H.323 video to the desktop. Simple pricing modle – sold as a one-time fee per port with an ability to enable all accounts.

    • Janine Lim says:

      Thanks for the comment, Brice. I’ve been playing with Mirial Softphone – the stand alone app – and am very interested in learning more about Mirial’s products. So does it have a limitation for downloads? or just “in use ports”?

  4. Brian T says:

    In an environment where you are calling both internet and intranet, look at the SONY XG80 High Definiion system. It has two RJ45 connection on the back of the box that allows for connection without having to unplug network cables or reconfigure dialing structures. It is a true HD system, lists less than $8900 and is built SONY quaility through and through. Most Classrooms of the 21st Century need to incorporate all types of tools for the classroom…this box truely does. I saw it at a show in Chicago and it was running on a SmartBoard, with a doc camera, a BlueRay DVD player and a laptop connected and being used. That is truely a Classroom of the 21st century!

  5. Hi Janine,

    Nice summary on Vidyo pros and cons. If you are looking to make lots of high quality video calls to others who also have high quality video equipment, our company Vidtel has a service that focuses on cross-company calling. Our current service is free – we are trying to get people to try it out, use it, and provide feedback on the use cases. If you are interested let me know or go to http://www.vidtel.com for more info.

    Regards,

    Scott

  6. We are a Video Conferencing service provider 100% focused on our offering based on Vidyo technology. The K-12 market is one we are focused on. Certainly I am biased but here is my feedback.

    The pro’s are accurate but missing the most significant element. That is that EVERY classroom that has a computer and projector can now be a very sophisticated Video Conferencing Room. The greatest limiting factor of Video Conferencing in K-12 is the scarce resource of Video Conferencing end points. Why not leverage the assets that are already in the classroom?

    Cons

    For audio in a group setting we always install a USB echo cancelling speakerphone like the Phoenix Duet and Clear One Chat 50. (List price about $150.) These work very well and completely eliminate any echo. Furthermore, you may connect these speakerphones to the in room audio system so the remote parties come through loud and clear everywhere in the room.

    We are a service provider. There is no hardware to install, support and upgrade. There is no usage fee, it is a simple annual fee with unlimited use. The minimum annual fee is $3,950 plus a $10 download fee per PC one time only.

    Regarding the gateway, if you only want to connect with other 323 end points then there is no reason to bring Vidyo into the picture. However, many times there are 323 dominated video conferences and schools sitting on the sidelines because they don’t have or cannot conveniently get to a 323 system. Use of the gateway allows a few classrooms with PC’s to participate in a 323 hosted event. Of course there are 100’s of thousand of PC’s in classrooms but only 3?, 5? 10? thousand video end points in classrooms. In todays difficult budget environments it might be an easier to find money that could be used in any classroom rather than fight for capital dollars to purchase another piece of dedicated equipment.

    Perhaps over time it will be the 323 systems that will be pressured to become compatible internet/PC friendly video conferencing.

    • Janine Lim says:

      Thanks for adding this additional info, Scott.

      On the pros – yes – I was thinking that one was obvious since I am coming to this conversation from the perspective of how to get VC included in the installation of 21st century classrooms. Thanks for saying it though!

      Thanks for the tips on speakerphones too – so far I haven’t had good luck with the Clear One Chat – so I will be needing to try out the Phoenix Duet soon.

      On the number of H323 units out there – 30% of schools in the U.S. have them – see the Wainhouse Research study – so I am quite sure it’s higher than 10 thousand.
      http://www.wainhouse.com/files/papers/wr-k-12-us-stateaudit.pdf

      Thanks again for joining the conversation!

      Janine

    • Scott,

      You leave out one point about connecting to H.323 systems.

      It’s not simply connecting to other classrooms that is important. Most of the educational video content that is available today is via H.323 systems. The museums, science centers, zoos, etc. that offer video based distance education programs are doing so with traditional video conferencing equipment. This will continue to drive the use of H.323 in K-12 education for some time.

      Cheers,
      -Craig-

      • Thanks Craig,

        One thing I am trying to do is reach out to those content providers so they are aware of our type of service. When or if they use PC based solutions then their market expands significantly because any pc in the school can then connect to them, as opposed to just the room or cart that has the 323 equipment.

        Scott

      • Janine Lim says:

        I think also, that the content providers won’t be switching to PC based videoconferencing anytime soon. Think of all the cameras installed throughout zoos to bring exhibits to classes. PC based videoconferencing doesn’t allow all the inputs for multiple visuals that content providers need…. I don’t see that changing anytime soon….

  7. Marlow King says:

    Hello Janine,

    Thanks for the post and welcome the opportunity to help. I believe the goal is video conferencing in every class room. Some additional points the 2.0 platform auto senses audio and video devices. Enables in call switching of usb devices (doc cam, microscope, web cam, hd handycam, ect.)

    To address the cons:
    1) A Core 2 Duo processor is recommended I have run demo’s on netbooks (cif quality)

    2) Yes sw based echo in beta, for the class room a more robust usb speaker phone is recommended $300 to $600 by Clearone (and not referring to the personal devices)

    3) May consider the VidyoOne10 platform $14K list this is the perpetual bundle with 10 HD ports, 50 User Seats and 150 DT downloads (more could be added)

    4) The 2.0 GW will be out this summer and has more capacity for “legacy systems” the spec is not out yet.
    Also h.239 content sharing tested very cool.

    “For our area at least, Vidyo does not seem to be the ideal solution. We do too many calls off our network”

    Regarding the area above is where Vidyo excels and where we see universities are deploying because of guest link capability and open internet quality.

    Thanks Marlow

    • Janine Lim says:

      Thanks for adding this additional information, Marlow!

      What is the limitation of the H323 gateway? Somehow I got the understanding that it was 2 calls per gateway…. for our volume off network, that’s a serious limitation…. Is that your understanding too?

      Janine

  8. Marlow says:

    Also would like to add that the VidyoOne is the MCU and firewall traversal. Unlike other solutions on the market where there is a separate MCU, Portal and firewall traversal solution. We have our demo connected to a gatekeeper as well. Thanks Marlow

    • Janine Lim says:

      Oh yes – that’s good to add. Thanks Marlow. When I tested with GCI’s Vidyo, they had it connected to their gatekeeper which is registered to the Internet2 GDS, so that dialing worked great too!

      A question I thought of today is – if I have a Vidyo installation and my friend in Texas has a Vidyo installation, how would we connect with each other? Do you know?

  9. Kirt Beck says:

    Vidyo has really grown up since many of these posts. ANTHC (Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium) is now a Vidyo Reseller here in Alaska and has VidyoRouters and VidyoGateways installed all over the state (around 30 servers to date). If you’d like to know how you can leverage this infrastructure to your advantage, you can contact me from the details on our website. –Kirt

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