Telepresence In The Home: Who’s On First?

Cisco today introduced umi, it’s effort to bring telepresence from the board room into the living rooms of the world. Umi (pronounced like “you me”) attaches to an existing HDTV via an HDMI connection and is said to support HD video calling.

Depending upon your available bandwidth umi can provide 720p or 1080i video streams. They quote 720p as requiring 1.5 mbps in each direction, while 1080 requires 3.5 mbps. Those numbers suggest the umi is not supporting the H.264 High Profile compression profile that Polycom has used on their systems. H.264 High Profile makes more efficient use of bandwidth, according to Polycom it’s bandwidth requirements are as little as half that of competitive systems.

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VUC Aug 13th: Blink Mind On Video Calling

This coming Friday, August 13th will be yet another Voip Users Conference double-header. Starting at our usual 12 Noon EDT we have an overview of the Freetalk Connect SMB PBX featuring Skype integration.

Then immediately following, at 1pm EDT, we have Chris Veazey, VP Engineering of Blink Mind, to discuss the current state of the industry with regard to multi-media phones and SIP-based video calling.

Blink Mind has agreed to provide a video conference bridge (MCU) as part of their appearance. Further, as Blink Mind are a Polycom partner, Polycom has graciously provided a pair of Polycom VVX-1500 Business Media Phones on loan. One VVX is at Randy’s location in California, and the other in my home office.

As we aim to explore the capabilities of the VVX-1500 and similar desk phones, the video portion of the Blink Mind call with be limited to CIF (352 x 240) resolution using H.264 compression.

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The Freetalk Everyman Webcam For Skype

For the past month or two I have been experimenting with the Freetalk Everyman Webcam for Skype. I must admit that upon hearing about the Freetalk Everyman Webcam for Skype I was a little slow to generate any enthusiasm for the device. After all, it’s just a webcam. I’ve used webcams for a decade or more.

Eventually, I found myself interested in the novelty of the on-board H.264 encoder so I acquired a sample of the little Freetalk Everyman Webcam from In-Store Solutions.

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Video Calling Comes Home: Skype On TV?

Modern HDTVs are essentially small embedded computer systems. I was reminded of this fact when I recently purchased a TV for our bedroom. It’s a 32″ Samsung LCD-TV, and it makes little boot-up chimes just like a computer. TV’s are computers…that’s worth remembering.

Recently several large consumer electronics companies have launched new LCD HDTVs in partnership with Skype. This partnership leverages the fact that TVs are computers.

These new model LCD-TVs run an embedded version of the Skype client. When equipped with suitable media handling support (camera, microphone & possibly speakers) these TVs are purported to allow large screen point-to-point video calling via the Skype network.

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The Freetalk Everyman HD Webcam & H.264 Compression

Not long ago In-Store Solutions launched the Freetalk Everyman HD Webcam for Skype. I’ve had a number of webcams before, even one capable of real “HD.” I bought the Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 last summer when I was trying the LifeSize Desktop video conference client. HD in this application means 1280 x 720 pixels.

So initially I thought that the Freetalk Everyman HD Webcam for Skype was less than exciting. Upon further investigation I find it very interesting for one specific reason; hardware acceleration of H.264 encoding.

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Amazon Unboxed Goes HD: Eventually

Just poking around this afternoon I found this which says that Amazon is definitely working on an HD version of their Unbox movie download service. This service is operated in partnership with Tivo. The user interface is very nicely integrated into the Tivo menus. My wife likes it a lot.

They suspect that the new service will be based upon H.264 compression. That’s about the only real option around.

Neither the company nor its customers will have unlimited bandwidth so older compression schemes would be impractical. Newer compression schemes would require that Amazon encode the content themselves. Better that they settle on H.264 which is what Apple’s iTunes uses amongst others.

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