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Infocomm 2014 Guest Blogger

June 27, 2014 | Telepresence Options


Editor's Note: Our good friend Bryan Hellard shares his thoughts and experiences from the InfoComm 2014 show. Please check back soon for TPO's InfoComm wrap-up and awards.

Instead of being an attendee of the show as in previous years, my duties changed to booth builder, exhibitor and then booth remover (yes, it was an incredibly long week). Even though I was at one booth the majority of the time, I was able to sneak away for a couple of hours to visit with other companies and see what they were offering. So as usual, here is a random recap of some good, some not so good and some silly stuff I came across. And in the interest of no disclosure, I will refrain from discussing the company that I was representing at the show.

I spent all of 15 minutes in the south hall. Honestly, stage lighting, projectors and 95% of the audio gear is irrelevant to me but I did want to check out the televisions and Crestron's booth. It was surprising to see only one curved TV, a 105" (I think) model by LG. While the picture was nice, it leaned back too far for my liking and looked too bulky to be sexy. For now, it looks like I will stick with the Samsung 65" curved 4k set as my current favorite.

A product I had been wanting to check out for a while is Solstice by Mersive. I kept hearing good things about it but was confused when I researched it. The demo I went through was great and cleared up my confusion. It's very cool and something I want to get and play with for a while. This is a great solution for data collaboration.

The hot topic lately is Lync and its "room system" so I checked the offerings from Crestron and Smart. Maybe it's me, but I don't get the fever behind Lync nor the absolute panic that many in our industry have in providing a set of products around it. It reminds me too much of the freak-out everyone had around 3 years ago over "Cloud" and hastily threw products in our face. It's as if we're getting used to "good enough" video. If we are, and we digress into the crap we had 20 years ago, count me out. As far as LRS goes, why not just buy some TVs, or even touchscreen displays, get a computer and web cam and make your own on the cheap? Heck the quality of Lync's video is so poor a web cam is about all you'll need.

Marcus Rosenthal from Revolve Robotics came by our booth with Kubi in hand. I was more excited to see a demo of this than to give him a demo of our own product. When Kubi first came out, I wanted one. Now that I've had a demo, I REALLY want one. It's so cool. I could sit here for a long time and come up with use case after use case where it would be a fantastic fit for a video meeting. It's infinitely cooler than any rolling robot product.

While I really like the majority of products from Polycom, I must say that their 360 degree camera, the CX5000, is a little silly. Okay, it's really silly. (I don't want to talk to the side of someone's face.) You can't sit around it and expect any sort of eye contact unless it sits directly between you and the display; which due to its nature only about half of the room does that. If you can't even have a reasonable expectation of being able to look each person in the eye then what is the point of video conferencing?

I have already been in Oblong's San Jose demo room, but I wandered by their booth anyway to see if there was any new stuff going on. In their demo, the sensors (which typically are installed in the ceiling) were on top of the displays. While I think the product is pretty cool and has its uses, removing apparatus from the ceiling and putting it on the displays was a brilliant move and I hope that drives down the cost. I am still waiting for the Mezzanine room to be controlled by naked hand gestures versus the wand though. I would also accept touching an app on your phone and having the phone control the data.

Finally, after all these years, I "get" what Vidyo is doing. It took someone from the company that was good at explaining things to make it stick in my head. I need to try it again.

Microsoft, what the heck? With everyone beating each other up in the quest to cater to Lync you "sort of" had a booth, and I am being kind. Maybe you wanted a booth to make everyone freak out leading up to the show about their own Lync integrations. If that's the case, well done. If not, oops. What would have been cool would be to save yourself a ton of money and just provide free Wi-Fi for the conference. Please try a little harder next year.

Cisco's speaker track - I don't get it. I've spent the past 15 years doing my absolute best to hide technology and they have come out with an automatically moving camera that is BIG. People are already camera shy, so how bad is it going to be now when you notice the camera moving and pointing toward you? Don't think I forgot about you -Polycom and your Eagle Eye Director... One or both of you need to change your camera to digital PTZ and then hide it.

My apologies go out to those I didn't get the chance to visit with since my time was at a premium this year. If you have anything you want me to check out, just let me know!

About the Author

Bryan Hellard, President of True View Video LLC, is an industry expert in video conferencing product development. With over 14 years' experience in video conferencing and telepresence, his duties have included product management, product design, testing and prototyping. Bryan is also a consultant for end users and video conferencing product vendors.

Bryan currently serves as Director of Product Engineering and is a member of the Advisory Board for Array Telepresence.

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