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Telepresence and Visual Collaboration @ InfoComm 2011 - Best of Show Awards

July 6, 2011 | Howard Lichtman

Telepresence and Visual Collaboration @ InfoComm 2011 

The Telepresence Options "Best of Show" Awards
By Howard S. Lichtman, Publisher - Telepresence Options

The InfoComm Trade Show is the world's largest gathering of AV professionals and the world's largest exhibition of telepresence and visual collaboration technologies.  This year's show was the 2nd largest show ever and the largest that InfoComm had ever produced in Orlando with 33,001 attendees from more than 90 countries and 925 exhibitors who took up 475,000 square feet of exhibition space.  Telepresence and visual collaboration was well represented this year with new exhibitors, major product announcements, and demonstrations of telepresence group systems, environments, podiums, kiosks, video network infrastructure, inter-networking, and managed service solutions.  Telepresence Options was there and we are pleased to provide you our 2nd annual "Best of Show" awards. 

InfoComm 2011 Trends

Last year I did a fairly exhaustive overview of the major trends that I saw on the show floor.  This year the show fell right after I had completed a major article on telepresence and visual collaboration trends for the inaugural issue of Telepresence Options Magazine.  You can read that article here: Telepresence and Visual Collaboration Trends 2011.  I will say that most of the major trends that I identified in 2010 are rolling forward today: Interoperability of systems continues to improve and inter-connectivity between QoS networks is accelerating through partnerships and telepresence and videoconferencing exchange.  Last year telepresence robotics was in beta and this year there are a number of vendors shipping robots with more bots in development. The biggest trend that I identified last year: Video's Race to Free As Quality and Utility Skyrocket continues unabated. Video appliances continue to decline in price and improve in quality.  Vu TelePresence was offering an HD video conferencing appliance for $49 a month on a three-year lease as one denominator of this market dynamic.

The Telepresence Options 
InfoComm 2010 "Best of Show" Awards

InfoComm_2011_TPO_Best_of_Show.jpgThis is our 4th year to do a comprehensive review of the latest and greatest at InfoComm and our 2nd year to give official awards.   If you disagree with any of my picks or feel like I have forgotten anyone then I have opened up a discussion thread @Telepresence Industry Professionals, our industry association on Linked In which we like to call the "Telepresence and Visual Collaboration Cool Kids Club".  We are now over 2,000 members globally. 

Best of Show - Telepresence Group System

Tie - Vidyo Panorama and HP Halo Prototype

You can read my full review of Vidyo's Panorama group telepresence system here but suffice to say that the ability to do 1080p, 60fps video on up to 20 screens at a sub 100K price-point cinched the deal.  The system shown above is one particular configuration but the system is really an open platform that can be configured in a variety of different layout of various screen sizes.  In the review linked above you can see my recommendations for optimizing a multi-screen group telepresence experience.

HP_Halo_Vidyo_Studio.jpg                         HP's Halo Prototype - The Product That Will Never Be

It looks like Polycom's recently announced acquisition of HP's visual collaboration business unit has all but doomed HP's new prototype group telepresence system but before it gets officially buried I wanted to give it some well earned "props".  The new group system would have been the first group system to come out of HP's partnership with Vidyo announced at InfoComm last year.  We gave that partnership "Best of Show" in 2010 and this prototype system is a perfect example of what we expected: 1080P, 60fps video using Vidyo's Internet-friendly SVC married with HP Halo's superb graphical user interface and wrapped up in beautiful and aesthetically pleasing wood. 
Best of Show - Small Group Telepresence Systems
Polycom's OTX 100
Polycom announced two new single screen versions of its Open Telepresence Experience (OTX) solution.  The OTX 100 has an integrated furniture package and optional backdrop which allows the system to achieve a unified look and feel when conferencing with the company's three screen modular group telepresence system the OTX 300.  The OTX 100 includes a 65" screen with a back panel, an integrated table with two 17" monitors, and a touch sensitive control pane for $99,999.  The OTX 100 Compact is $79,999 and includes the screen and back panel but is designed to integrate into a room with existing furniture so lacks the table and monitors.

    Best of Show - Executive Systems
StarLeaf Personal Telepresence
StarLeaf_Desktop_InfoComm.jpgDavid Maldow calling from another StarLeaf Personal Telepresence System in the Booth

StarLeaf could have won a variety of categories including video network infrastructure for its revolutionary integration of video into a full function VoIP PBX that is designed to replace voice-centric PBX systems with StarLeaf's video-centric version.  The ease-of-use is remarkable.  The touch screen StarLeaf phone makes video dead simple and simplifies data collaboration as well.

Best of Show - Telepresence Kiosks and Retail Solutions
Telepresence Tech's Illuminated Transparent 3D Kiosk

Telepresence Tech's Illuminated Transparent 3D Kiosk is on the left

TelePresence Tech upgraded their kiosk with a dash of kewl to increase its ability to "crowd gather".  The new kiosk has transparent side panels that are illuminated with edge lighting using LED lights.  The lights are RGB controllable to have the kiosk glow in any selected color or with a programmed color sequence.  The high brightness, high definition monitor can display eye-catching holographic-looking objects/graphics and/or show a live or recorded person appearing in front of the superimposed backdrop. 

Telepresence_Call_Center.jpgThe company pairs the kiosk with eye contact systems for remote reps to create a "Telepresence Call Center" to connect the customer services representatives to the kiosks for a quality interactive experience.

Best of Show - Webconferencing
Cisco's WebEx OneTouch

I probably would have missed this if Cisco's Jeff Day hadn't given me the complete overview of essentially every product in their booth.  I hadn't realized that Cisco had so tightly and intuitively integrated Cisco TelePresence with WebEx conferencing. 

  • "One Button to Push" meeting launch of both Cisco WebEx conferencing and Cisco TelePresence meeting from the Cisco TelePresence meeting room.
  • Smooth, transparent data sharing between Cisco TelePresence rooms and the WebEx client. Use the Cisco TelePresence Auto-Collaborate feature or share via WebEx; data will display simultaneously in the Cisco TelePresence room and on the WebEx session.
  • Cisco TelePresence video streaming into WebEx, so remote users can view video of the active Cisco TelePresence participants.
  • Participants list display in the Cisco WebEx meeting client and in the Welcome screen for the Cisco TelePresence attendees.

Best of Show - Video Network Management
Cisco announced the introduction of the Cisco TelePresence Conductor which can manage as many as 30 different MultiPoint Control Units (MCUs).  As the name suggests, the conductor assigns meetings to the appropriate MCU and monitors conferencing components to failover down equipment. The Conductor is said to have comprehensive administrative control functionality and supports all standards-based endpoints. The TelePresence Conductor should be globally available toward the latter part of this year.

Point-to-point interoperability between Cisco and TANDBERG and H.264/SIP endpoints
Another big improvement that Cisco announced was an update to endpoint software (TC 5.0 and CTS 1.8) to finally provide point-to-point interoperability between Cisco TelePresence endpoints and videoconferencing endpoints made by TANDBERG, a videoconferencing company Cisco acquired in 2010, and other H.264/SIP endpoints from other manufacturers.  Previously the company was forced to connect Cisco TelePresence endpoints to disparate endpoints using a MCU which 1. Required an MCU and 2. Took up valuable MCU ports that could have been used by other multipoint meetings.

Other announcements include improvements by Cisco to its TelePresence Server 8710 and 7010v.2.2 to support up to 64 meeting participants in high definition (HD) (720p30) mode and up to 48 participants in full HD mode (720p, 60fps and/or 1080p, 30fps).
Improvement to Cisco's TelePresence Multipoint Switch which now supports the C Series &  EX Series endpoints and all Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP)-based endpoints.  The total meeting size has increased from 48 to 90 screens.

Best of Show - Video Network Infrastructure 

Polycom  announced significant enhancements to its video network infrastructure offerings. The company announced a software upgrade to its "UC Intelligent Core" an umbrella term for Polycom's line of video network infrastructure products including the RMX line of conferencing MCU's and the DMA product line of video network management solutions which provide call control, SIP registration/proxy, SIP to H.323 Gateway, and other call and network management functionality.

The new capabilities include the ability to load balance across up to 192 MCUs to support up to 75,000 devices (TP and VTC endpoints, tablets, video phones, etc.) and up to 25,000 simultaneous calls. 

Best of Show - Cameras and Codecs
The Polycom Eagle Eye Director

The Polycom Eagle Eye Director is a product that I had heard about but hadn't yet gotten to experience a live demonstration.  At InfoComm,  Polycom was conducting them every hour on the hour.  The Eagle-Eye Director marries a two-camera and microphone array with  facial recognition logic that recognizes when someone is talking and then automatically frames up a shot with the speaker(s) properly positioned. Before the camera switches to the new speaker the system can send a wide "establishing shot" to give remote participants an understanding of the whole scene. The logic ensures that the camera only tracks participant talking and not random noises generated in the conference. For large meeting rooms, distance learning environments, and any meeting where multiple participants will be be frequently taking "the Conch" the Director does a superb job of bringing some automation and production quality to improve conferences.

Best of Show - Videoconferencing Appliance
InFocus MondoPad
Mondopad InFocus.jpg
The MondoPad - Best of Show - Videoconferencing Appliance
The InFocus MondoPad was one of a handful of distinctively innovative ideas at InfoComm.  The marriage of a 55 inch touch sensitive 1080p LCD "tablet" and 720p videoconferencing capabilities into a relatively low-cost ($5949) package. One of the trends that I identified in my recent article Telepresence and Visual Collaboration Trends 2011 was: Effective Visual Collaboration or a more sophisticated and natural way of working with data between remote locations.  I especially like the ability to whiteboard interactively and digitize hand-generated graphics so I wanted to give some props to InFocus for their touch sensitive tablet approach.  Success will hinge on getting the collaborative software and GUI right and right now they are on version 1.0.

Best of Show - Partnership
MondoPad and Vidtel
Vidtel CEO Scott Wharton and InFocus Director of Marketing Scott Niesen
in front of the MondoPad

The InFocus / Vidtel Partnership - The partnership  bundles Vidtel's cloud-based multi-point bridging services with the MondoPad for SME clients that would like have multi-point capabilities but don't want to buy and babysit an MCU.  On the Vidtel side the launch of the MondoPad attracted the attention of every gadget site on the Internet: Engadget, CNet, ZDNet, with even Technobuffalo weighing in on the uber-geekiness of a 55" touch sensitive display.  Scott Wharton had the only video MSP on the scene.

Best of Show
Recording, Streaming, and Archiving
BurstPoint announced their VCP Virtual Delivery Node, a cloud-based version of their recording, streaming, and archiving video content management system.  You can capture video from any source (including telepresence and videoconferencing endpoints) and then make that video available in high quality steams to remote offices and participants accessing from the internet. The system replicates video content to different local nodes on individual office LANs to conserve each remote site's bandwidth to the Internet.  The cloud based offerings will replicate the content for Internet delivery attached to partner Highwinds' 3 Terabyte per second Content Deliver Network.

Best of Show - Telepresence Robotics
The VGo Robot drove away with this year's award by being the only telepresence robot that we ran into at InfoComm.  Luckily we aren't litigious.  But seriously... We are expecting multiple telepresence robots at InfoComm 2012... Hopefully battling each other to the death with high-speed spinning saw blades, mini-rocket launchers, and "lasers".  Telepresence Options is interested in sponsoring a team if the industry can organize a proper telepresence robotics battle royale and I get to drive the bot in the competition.  Let the trash talk begin.

Best of Show - Publications
Telepresence Options Magazine/2011 Yearbook
This is our first year to give ourselves an award but I think we earned it.  Telepresence Options  launched the world's first magazine devoted to telepresence and visual collaboration and the 2011 Yearbook was the most comprehensive collection of telepresence and visual collaboration solutions ever assembled.  So far we have subscribers from over three dozen countries.  Initial Hard Copy Distribution for Issue #1 So Far:

Mail - Subscribers (TPO Magazine + Yearbook + VIP)
  • Domestic US - 234 Copies Mailed - Priority Mail June 9th  - High Profile End Users and Press Prior to InfoComm 2011
  • Domestic US - 1296 Copies Mailed Third Class on June 16th  - Remainder of the Domestic List
  • Foreign - 869 Copies Mailed 1st Class on June 21st
  • Individual VIP Distribution - Ongoing - ~ 50+ copies since May

Bulk Distribution
  • NAB Show - 5000 copies shipped / ~4700 distributed / ~300 destroyed
  • Sponsors Copies - ~400 shipped to TPO main marketing contact for each sponsor
  • Broadband Properties Summit - ~150 Distributed
  • InfoComm 2011 - 3500 copies shipped / ~2500 distributed / ~400 Saved / ~ 600 copies destroyed
  • Telecom Exchange - 400 copies - Placed in each attendees bag
The next edition of Telepresence Options Magazine will be published in Fall 2011 and will cover:
Infrastructure, Managed Services, Inter-Networking, Security, and Exchange

Contents will include:
  • Understanding Video Network Infrastructure
  • The Great Debate:
The Case for Managed Services
The Case for building Your Own VNOC
  • Inter-Networking Telepresence: MPLS, Satellite, and Exchange
  • Securing Video

Telepresence People at InfoComm

John_Lytle_Steve_Gage_John_Lytle.jpgJohn Lytle, President of Dorado Professional Services, Steve Gage, CTO of Teliris, and Aaron Roe, Video Services Leader at Deloitte hangin out at the Telepresence Options Booth

Industry legends David Allen and Herold Williams, Co-founders of telepresence pioneer TeleSuite/Destiny Conferencing are reunited at the show.  David is now Chairman of Iformata Communications and Herold is getting ready to uncloak his next innovation and rock the industry again.

MASERGY's Randy Clark, StarLeaf CTO Will MacDonald, and MASERGY's Chris Carr discuss how good StarLeaf looks over MASERGY's native MPLS network. 

About the Author and Award Selection Committee of One
HSL_Headshot.jpgHoward S. Lichtman is the publisher of Telepresence Options, the #1 website on the internet covering telepresence technologies and the Editor in Chief of Telepresence Options Magazine and the Telepresence Options Telegraph newsletter.

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