New Developments in Desktop VC

Recently, thanks to the Megaconference Listserv, I found another blog with reviews of technology, including videoconferencing tools: TelBitConsulting Technical Blog. This blogger admits a bias to desktop VC, which shows the corporate focus. However, I still want to see a desktop VC system morphed with Promethean or similar interactive whiteboards to bring curriculum videoconferencing to all classrooms.

Polycom has come out with a new CMA product, which I want to look into further when Read Around the Planet calms down a little. TelBitConsulting has done a review of CMA and other new Polycom products. What caught my eye was this quote:

The CMA Desktop is meant to work most efficiently within the corporate environment.  Telecommuters connect via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) but can do so from Starbucks if they so wish.  The downside is that external people with H.323 endpoints, like myself, are harder to reach, and the CMA Infrstructure may not be for us loners.

I certainly evaluate all these new products on how well they connect to all the H323 anythings out there – like we do for Read Around the Planet. Sounds like CMA might not work well for these types of collaborative connections, but need to investigate further.

The other new desktop product that has caught my interest in Vidyo. I ran across a Google ad one time wandering on the Internet. I’ve requested some datasheets and intend to learn more about this too (after RAP matching is done!). However, in the meantime, TelBitConsulting has done a review on Vidyo too. It seems that these new models are putting the money & effort into the network infrastructure and using the distributed concept like Skype. Vidyo has a gateway that hooks to h323. Not sure if this is a good plan for K12 curriculum videoconferencing or not, but I intend to explore it further.

0 replies on “New Developments in Desktop VC”

  1. A few words about Vidyo.

    Vidyo is very different from its competitors because we use the standard called H.264 Scalable Video Codec a.k.a SVC or H.264 Annex G.

    H.264 SVC is the evolution of the legacy H.264 AVC (the one regularly used by the other vendors) that was not really designed for lossy networks like the internet.

    We do really handle adverse network conditions in a unique way because because we threat the video in a completely different way.

    Every participant will send a stream containing multiple “layers”.

    The base layer comes with a low frame rate and resolution and consumes very low bandwidth.

    At the same time we send additional Enhancement Layers adding:

    – Better Quality (making the picture less compressed)
    – Higher Frame rate
    – Higher Resolutions

    This way we can send a stream with the informations needed to describe all of the range form CIF 7 fps to HD 720P-60.

    Naturally we do not encode separately for each Resolution / Frame Rate combination .. we do all at once with little to none overhead.

    All the video stream will come to our VidyoRouter that will make the multi-conference possible.

    The difference with those expensive Hardware MCUs is that the VidyoRouter will “simply” switch the layers among the participants.

    It does it in a clever way because every user will receive

    – only the information He/She needs (when a participant is displayed in a small pane there is no need to get all of the layers)

    – only the information He can cope with (in case the conenctivity is very slow the VidyoDesktop, our client, will display a reduced number of users automatically)

    Another interesting optimization is that we automatically reduce the number of layers that are sent to each participants based on what’s going on the PC

    – If you reduce the size of our application -> we will send you less layers to get you what really makes sense for you (and you decrease the load on your network and on your PC)

    – If you make it bigger or go fullscreen -> we send you more

    – If you computer is lagging behind because it is too old or you simply open multiple applications during the conference -> we will sedn you less layers and eventually you will see less participants

    – When you computer or network recover -> we send you the best you can deal with

    Our VidyoRouter is doing all of this introducing only 10 ms of dealy (no more than 20 ms in the worst condition) compared to the 100-250 ms of the Hardware Expensive MCUs.

    Additionally .. with a legacy MCU the Continuos Presence Layout (when multiple people appears on the screen) requires

    – decompression from all the video coming form the participants
    – creation of the composited layout
    -compression of the layout to be sent to the participant

    These tasks takes time (hence the huge delay) and every time you do encode (compress) you end up loosing quality compared to the original one.

    With Vidyo, instead, you will have

    – Lowest latency possible
    – Best Video Quality
    – Best User Experience on adverse networks

    Now the usual comments is: “You use all of this fancy stuff so It is a closed solution and not interoperable with my Tandberg, Sony, Polycom …”

    The answer is that we invented a new set of standards and techniques because we understood that the traditional approach does not really pay off and does not work decently over the internet.

    But we are fully interoperable with SIP and H.323 endpoints thanks to a specific component of our solution which is called VidyoGateway

    This guy is taking care of converting the call into a regular H.323 / SIP one and translates our H.264 SVC into the legacy H.264 AVC or H.263

    If you look at competing solutions (the Polycom CMA Desktop) you end up with the same old lady with a new dress: software endpoint using old standards which require expensinve MCUs

    when you really want to deploy a Desktop based solution you are talking about a lot of users and I can assure you that no matter of slowly you want to start you end up giving it to everyone.

    This is all we wanted: HD videoconference everywhere we go

    And Hardware MCU will always be

    – Too expensive for such large deployments

    – Unable to scale for such big deployments (how many mcus ? where do I install them ? how many do I have to buy ?)

    – Degrading the quality

    – Giving you a latency which is too high for a natural experience

    Last but not least … the vidyo solution comes with built in firewall and nat traversal .. in the box .. no hidden cost

    Should you want more information about our products or technology fell free to give a look to our website and download the whitepapers

    There is nothing like testing it yourself !

    Vidyo, not the same old lady with a new dress 🙂

  2. Thanks Ckristian, I do want to know more – after I get done dealing with Read Around the Planet. My big question is – is it worth it for K12 schools to invest in this when what we really want to do is connect to everything out there – all the h323 systems. I will be researching further when I get the time.

  3. One clarification to your statement: “which shows corporate focus”. 🙂

    I am now attending “Project IMPACT” which is a Teacher Development program in San Joaquin County, Stockton, CA. At the end of this portion of the program, I will be “Intern Ready”. I now sub and recently finished a long term sub position in 7th Grade (Core/Math). Search for “Personal Telepresence – the Original” on my Blog and see the Educational focus in that concept.

    Love your blog!

    Hi Ckristian! 🙂

  4. LOL Mike/Telebit. Good call! Sorry!! I guess I showed my bias that desktop VC isn’t ideal in the classroom – for full classroom events like we do – with all 30 kids involved in a collaborative project. I realize that’s up for debate! Looking forward to further conversation!

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