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Vidyo Launches VidyoPanorama - Multi-screen Telepresence Environment

June 8, 2011 | Howard Lichtman

Vidyo CEO Ofer Shapiro and Telepresence Options publisher Howard Lichtman stand in front of a nine-screen VidyoPanorama room with a participating iPad2 capturing the scene.

Telepresence and visual collaboration provider Vidyo launched a new multi-screen telepresence environment called VidyoPanorama today.  VidyoPanorama is designed to support up to 20 screens each running a simultaneous high definition video session or displaying data collaboration elements. The system addresses limitations in traditional telepresence group systems that can keep many participants in a multi-site video call "off-screen" unless they have recently spoken or have been "framed" by an operator running the meeting to always be present.  In the VidyoPanorama model all participants and/or multiple data sources can remain visible on the screen at all times at 1080p, 60fps high definition.

A Corporate Promotional Video on VidyoPanorama

Cost-Effective Telepresence Kit

The Panorama solution is a fraction of the cost of other multi-screen telepresence group systems but some assembly is required.  The base kit consists of a primary control unit for the room, a decoder per screen, an executive tablet, an off-the-shelf high definition camera and audio solution.  The customer buys the appropriate number and quality of screens for their budget.  The base kits costs:

  • 4 Screen 720p60 for under $40,000
  • 4 Screen 1080p60 for under $44,000
  • 6 Screen- 720p60 for under $45,000
  • 6 Screen- 1080p60 for under $50,000
  • 9 Screen- 720p60 for under $55,000
  • 9 Screen- 1080p60 for under $60,000

The Real Magic is Under the Hood

For those unfamiliar with Vidyo, the company has pioneered the use of Scalable Video Coding (SVC) which splits a high-definition video stream into multiple streams that perform better over best-effort networks like the Internet. When the video stream runs into congestion, the codec can drop one or more "layers," which might scale back resolution or frame rate but will otherwise maintain fluid video and, in the process, the ongoing sense of immersion.

SVC uses 10 to 15 percent more bandwidth than H.264 AVC, but its stability and quality over best effort networks (like the Internet itself) more than compensates for the increased overhead. In fact, the cost savings are substantial because you can now run quality intra-company video over lower priority network connections. You can even use best-effort Internet connections (especially if all your intra-company sites are on the same network provider) and acceptable inter-company video depending on the quality of your circuit/provider. 

Vidyo_Panorama_Backend.jpgThe other revolutionary aspect of the Vidyo approach is that the Vidyo Router, which powers the multi-site video capabilities of Vidyo endpoints, doesn't require the same computational power and costs as other traditional MCU-based video solutions.  This both reduces the latency of the video stream as it transits the box and reduces the cost of the gear required to support multi-site videoconferencing.

Vidyo_Panorama_Multidevice.jpgAnother aspect of the Vidyo platform is that the software client is both lightweight and low-cost allowing it to be deployed on a variety of devices ranging from laptops to iPads to smartphones. 

Telepresence Options Publisher Howard Lichtman's Thoughts and Analysis

As you can tell from the  picture, I got a sneak peak at Vidyo's new room system a couple of weeks ago at their headquarters in Hackensack, NJ.  I was impressed.  The human factors of Vidyo's prototype nine-screen room were, frankly, OK.  What made the biggest impression was the growing flexibility and capabilities of Vidyo's low-cost back-end video network infrastructure. 

The big story here isn't that Vidyo has launched a multi-screen system that costs a fraction of what competitive multi-screen telepresence environments cost.  The big story is that Vidyo's low-cost back-end video network infrastructure that supports high definition 1080p, 60fps multi-site video calls is now supporting multi-screen telepresence calls at a fraction of the TCO of competitive systems. 

"Pro-Modifying" the VidyoPanorma Kit

Vidyo is arming systems integrators and Pro-AV resellers with the capabilities to create a variety multi-screen video solutions that range from immersive telepresence group system environments to command and control rooms displaying multiple high definition video and data sources simultaneously.  It will be interesting to see the variety of solutions that are created from the VidyoPanorama platform. 

I offered Vidyo my own general design for "Pro-Modifying" the initial nine screen prototype to create a more immersive environment that can be made interoperable with other multi-screen telepresence group systems:

1st. - Reduce the Bezels on the bottom three screens to create as seamless (as economically feasible) display solution for what will be the primary seats in the environment. The bottom row of screens should be optimized for a traditional western European "across-the-table" business meeting and integrated with a furniture package that both correctly positions the primary participants for an optimum experience and creates a business-class "consistency-of-quality" between multiple locations.

2nd - Lower the camera from above the 2nd Row of screens to above the 1st row of screens and hide as effectively as possible to reduce "The Documentarian's Curse".

3rd - Create an option for additional cameras that would replicate the capabilities of the other three screen modular group systems on the market (I.E. the ability to conduct a traditional "telepresence multi-point" global roundtable with life-size participants from multiple cities visible simultaneously).  This also positions the system for ultimate  interoperability with other telepresence group systems and improves the capabilities of the room. 

About the Author
Howard Lichtman is the President of the Human Productivity Lab, an independent consultancy focused on telepresence and effective visual collaboration for organizations looking to improve productivity and reduce costs.  The Lab provides corporate clients with acquisition consulting, RFI/RFP creation, and ROI/TCO financial modeling on telepresence systems, telepresence managed services, and inter-networking telepresence. The Lab also provides investors with prescient insight into the rapidly growing telepresence industry.  Mr. Lichtman is also the publisher of Telepresence Options, the #1 website on the internet covering telepresence technologies and the editor of Telepresence Options Magazine and the Telepresence Options Telegraph.

Other Resources

VidyoPanorama - Official Press Release

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