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Avizia Educator: Videoconferencing and Complete Room Control
While the standard meeting room will always have its place in business and education, it may be destined to become a secondary player to new, technology powered, collaboration rooms. What is the difference? A meeting room is a place where people talk about the work they need to do, while a collaboration room provides the tools needed to actually get the job done. Whether the room is powered by large touch screens, projectors, integrated project management software, videoconferencing technology, or all of the above and more, the purpose is clearly more than simply reviewing your progress with the boss before returning to your cubicle.
Education has been a strong early adopter of collaboration technologies, as they often work excellently as teaching tools. After all, a good teacher lectures, but a great teacher collaborates with the class. The problem is that these technologies can be complicated, and a teacher should ideally be focused on the subject at hand, not on learning all of the intricacies of the classroom projector, touch screen, VC unit, etc. etc. The teacher doesn't need more tools, he or she needs an easy way to control all of the existing technologies, ideally from one interface. This is the goal of the Avizia Educator. We spoke with Corey Costly (Avizia CMO) to learn more about this new solution.
Avizia is a company focused on creating collaboration tools for specific needs, rather than general application appliances. Their line includes the Clinical Assistant (a telemedicine cart), Avizia Tactical (a portable, tactical videoconferencing end-point), Avizia Synch (a specialty device that improves videoconferencing on SMART Board interactive whiteboards) and the Avizia Extended Height Cart ( a cart specifically designed for the Cisco MX200 or MX300 videoconferencing endpoints). The product we found most interesting is the Avizia Educator, a solution for improving both distance learning and the local experience by giving the instructor simple, easy-to-use controls to improve the display of both local and remote participants and information.
The Avizia team has an interesting genesis with key members hailing from Cisco and having particular skills creating products for verticals. The products they created at Cisco obviously leveraged Cisco technology, which included the Cisco C90 video codec. The C90 is perhaps the most underutilized device in videoconferencing history. The appliance has massive power and functionality under the hood, but actually leveraging this power is a mystery to many customers, who simply use it as a standard videoconferencing endpoint. Let's take a quick look at the back of the c90.
Quite a lot of connection possibilities for a simple codec. From personal experience, I can tell you that the administrative menus within the device's UI are just as overwhelming and intimidating. As a result, I strongly believe that most C90 owners will never use (or even understand) most of the potential of the device. The main issue is that the user interface is not very friendly. While typical users can easily dial a call, it takes someone with IT skills to configure and enable the more powerful capabilities.
The Avizia team has a unique knowledge and understanding of the C90, and a goal of designing real world applications for collaboration technology. As a result, they have created the "Educator Controller," an appliance which is bundled with the C90 (list for bundle including C90, Educator, and one camera is $59,900) and designed to bring its power directly to the users. The Educator is more than just a friendly UI for the C90. It appears that the team realized their methodology for creating a user friendly workflow for the C90 could be applied to other collaboration elements of a typical classroom, or team workspace. As a result, the device controls a number of room elements, all with a very simple, intuitive UI, which can be downloaded as a free app.
I met with Corey over video, and he gave me a virtual tour of a collaboration workspace powered by Avizia Educator. Cameras were intelligently placed both at the front and back of the room, so that remote viewers could see the teacher (or team leader) as he or she presented at the front of the room using various collaboration tools, (including projectors, traditional monitors, etc). Some collaboration tools only offer a "back of the head" view of the teacher, which is less than ideal.
Corey quickly and easily was able to control a number of room elements, connecting various devices and locations to the C90, raising and lowering screens, moving content between various displays, including a document camera, and much more. As impressive as the demo was, the real "wow" moment was when I downloaded the app on my iPad and started controlling Corey's room from my location. Without any training, and very little guidance from Corey, I was soon juggling content between the screens, switching camera views, etc. Aside from the cool factor, the practical benefit of this is that anyone participating in the meeting, class, or work session, can "drive" the room and control its various elements.
The Avizia Educator currently supports over 100 collaboration devices, and the team can easily add control for custom requests. Future plans also include digging even deeper into power of the C90. At Telepresence Options, we are big fans of looking at collaboration rooms holistically, which is a big part of the Avizia approach. As a result, we look forward to seeing how the market treats this new offering, which is slated to start shipping this month. We also look forward to future developments as this product continues to add the type of powerful functionality not seen in your typical video room set-ups.
About the Author
David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate publisher at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter and Google+.
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