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TPO Video Review: Personify Live

January 6, 2014 | David S. Maldow, Esq.

PersonifyLive

The remote productivity revolution continues to gain steam, as more and more of us are using technology to avoid travel, whether that be across the country, or even to our own offices. While there are many uses for remote collaboration tools, one of the most common is the typical presentation. The travel reduction and convenience benefits of remote presentations translate into less stress, better quality of life, and greater productivity from your working teams.

But with everything comes a cost. What the standard web presentation gains in convenience, it may lose in impact, compared to a traditional in-person presentation. Personify Live, the subject of this review, seeks to remedy this by making a web presentation more closely follow the appearance and dynamics of a typical in-person meeting. Please check out the video above, for a quick look at the solution, and keep reading to see what we learned by talking to Personify CEO Sanjay Patel, about this solution, and the company's future plans.

To better understand the problem that Personify is designed to address, let's take a closer look at some of the differences between traditional and remote presentations.


"In-Person" Presentations

Follows the classroom model. Presenter / teacher stands or sits in front of the presentation material. Presenter is able to naturally interact with the material. Audience can easily view the material and the presenter, without losing any of the important facial expressions and body language so important for full communication.

Web Based Presentation

The audience generally has a choice of viewing the presentation materials or the presenter. Some solutions allow for the presenter to appear over the material in a thumbnail box. These thumbnails often are either too small to convey human expression, or are so big that they block the presentation material.


The simplest way to describe the Personify Live solution is that it gives a web presentation the appearance of a traditional presentation. The shared material provides the background for the presenter, just as the old blackboard was the background for our teachers. It "breaks the box" of the standard webcast thumbnail by replacing the actual wall behind you, with your shared material. The result is less information is blocked by the box. Your audience just sees you and your data.

PersonifyLive

Personify Live leverages the technology of "depth cameras" including the Microsoft Kinect, Asus Xtion Pro Live and Primesense Carmine. These cameras can separate the presenter from his actual background, which the Personify Live software can then overlay on top of the presentation materials. The result is the best of both worlds, a presentation from the comfort of your PC / laptop, with the appearance and impact of an in-person presentation.

PersonifyLive

The Personify Live service is available as a monthly subscription and includes a number of features, including recording, and streaming (beta). One particularly cool feature is their complimentary smart phone app, which allows for control of the session (advancing PowerPoint slides, etc.) from your phone. This can be used for a very effective standing presentation without having to awkwardly lean over to control a laptop.

PersonifyLive

While the focus of this article, and the video review above, has been on using Personify Live for presentations, it could also be used as a quick backdrop creator for your day to day videoconferencing (h/t xFrequentC). Whether you are looking for specific messaging on your background, or just want to hide the clutter on the wall behind your desk, you can get pretty creative with Personify Live, and have a bit of fun while your are doing it.

When we spoke with Sanjay Patel, he shared that the company is already enjoying strong adoption, with thousands of users in their first year alone. He also explained that while the original focus was on the "one to many" presentation (the typical webcast) they are working to increase support for multiple people on screen simultaneously, for greater interactivity and collaborative potential. What I found particularly interesting, and encouraging, was when Sanjay described how his customers themselves are coming up with new and innovative uses for the solution, which he plans to further support in later versions. To me, that is the sign of a flexible, and user friendly, solution with strong adoption potential.

The value of an in-person presentation dynamic during remote sessions is undeniable, and the service is affordable even for small business budgets. It is never wise to predict whether the market will "get it" when it comes to a particular product, but I think it is safe to say that their customer base will continue to grow. I also believe the Personify community will continue to foster cool new applications and uses, which could be instructive for the remote collaboration industry at large. You might say this company is the "personification" of a novel technology, fitting a clear need, with a flexible and ready platform. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next from both the Personify company, and its user community.

About the Author
David_Maldow, Esq.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.







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