lifesize_conferenceThe recent announcement of the LifeSize Conference offering at Interop New York on October 23, 2007 got me thinking hard about what does it really take to do telepresence?

We have argued in various reports that telepresence is a particularly high-end video conferencing (see Seeing is Believing). LifeSize is offering a bundle of cameras, microphones and a special load of appliance software to allow resellers and systems integrator partners to create their own offerings around this bundle. Complementing these high performance electronics are the company's famously simple UI is both functional and elegant.

The key aspects of effective telepresence has been great camera and codec, simple controls, high bandwidth WAN, room acoustics, lighting and furniture. The WAN, room acoustics, lighting and furniture, in the LifeSize model are the responsibility of the partner. Regardless of who provides the solution components or has responsibility for the complete room, the room has to have appropriate surfaces and geometries for effective audio pickup.

A recent analyst conference at Tandberg provided the best example of the problem with hard surfaces. In a HD conference with their CTO in Oslo (we were in Virginia) the high ceilings and hardwood floors and walls of the office gave an incredibly poor audio experience. This reminded me of the conference rooms at 3Com's Golf Road facility (no longer 3Com) in the Chicago area. The video room was a cave – cement floors, tall ceiling and white board walls. Can you hear me? me? me? Here's where they installed a video conferencing machine. It made sessions completely useless.

When I installed a [[Dolby]] 7.1 AV receiver (Yamaha HTR 5790) in the family room of our new home in Massachusetts, it came with a microphone on a cable and automated software to sense and tune the audio range levels for each of the 7 side speakers and the subwoofer speaker. Of course, my family room has carpeting, drywall walls and a roughened plaster ceiling. {shadowboxwtw2}This is the kind of room qualifying initialization process mechanism that the telepresence vendors need to automate and implement on behalf of their resellers.{/shadowboxwtw2} Maybe the test mechanism should measure echo too and not just audio location and balance?


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