It seems that there’s a new wave of devices emerging that aim to provide high-quality video calling by way of the family TV.
This is not unfamiliar territory as both Cisco and Google have been in the space for some time. Cisco had their UMI device and associated service. Google had with the video calling capabilities built into Google TV, as exemplified by Logitech’s Revue.
It very clear that none of these prior efforts have made the kind of inroads that had been expected. Umi is no more. Logitech admitted that they took a bath on the Google TV and killed off Revue. Google seems to be continuing the Google TV effort, but it’s unclear where it’s heading.
Tuesday I had an opportunity to try Telesphere’s new VideoConnect service. VideoConnect is a video conference service targeting what’s loosely called the “SMB” sector. That is, businesses smaller than typically use hardware-centric telepresence or video conferencing solutions.
To understand VideoConnect to helps to first frame up Telesphere, who are a Phoenix AZ based provider of hosted Voice/UC services based upon the Broadsoft cloud. Telesphere’s service offering also leverages their private, managed MPLS network. That means that they provide a private connection to end-user sites, ensuring that their services are delivered without issues of QoS/QoE.
I’ve been a customer of GotoMeeting for many years. I’ve used the service largely as a means to gain remote access to customers systems for the purpose of remote maintenance and diagnostics. I was driven to its use by the ABC group of stations, whose corporate network is seriously locked down. Since then my employer has become an avid user of their GotoAssist product, which is actually better suited to our activities.
We have also used GotoMeeting for its more traditional purpose of making online presentations. Since our staff are distributed around the US and UK it’s been a handy platform for giving presentations. At $50/mo the cost/benefit balance of the service is very good. It lets use do more while travelling less, which is a win/win combination.
Early in our use of GotoMeeting we tried to use the voice conferencing facet of the service. However, at that time we found it wanting. Call quality was extremely variable, never very good. Thus we adopted the habit of using GotoMeeting for the presentation/desktop sharing, but a separate conference bridge to handle voice calls.
It happens that I have a Passport in my home office at the moment. It was acquired earlier this year in the process of my failed attempt to entice LifeSize to join a VUC call using their video conference bridge. In my office the Passport is connected to a Sony 26” Bravia HDTV via HDMI. The camera connects to the Passport device via a Firewire cable.
The Passport is a small device. It’s small enough to be portable. I’m told that some people carry it around as they travel, using it over hotel broadband. The camera includes a built-in microphone array. The video quality presented is quite good, especially in light of the rather modest cost of the device.
In recent weeks and months I’ve been giving some thought to making greater use of video within the scope of my work life. In part this is what what motivated my ill-fated attempt to get LifeSize to appear on a VUC call. It happens that others VUC contributors are considering such things as well.
Last week Paul Warmbowski was completing a trial of the Vidyo personal telepresence server. He offered several VUC regulars a chance to connect for a test call. The experience was both welcome and very interesting.
The Eyeball in question has a built-in digital-to-analog adapter and presents a USB interface to the host platform. It’s a very good quality microphone. The fact that it includes a webcam is a plus if you use things like Skype for video calling.
I’d buy one of these myself, but my wife gave me it’s bigger sibling, the Blue Yeti not long ago.