Lifesize Announces Icon 700 4K Video Conference End-Point

Lifesize has once again made a splash, announcing the Icon 700, their first 4K-capable video conference end-point.

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They’re taking pre-orders for the device, which marries a 4K PTZ camera with a 20x zoom lens, with the ability to drive dual, 4K displays. Thus it delivers 4K participant video and 4K full-motion shared content at each location.

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Lifesize must be quite excited since the announcement happened even before they had marketing support for the device. Lacking for a spec sheet, I posed a couple of questions to their sales team. They report the device as leveraging H.264 baseline or high profile, with H.265 on the road map. Further, that 4k30 video requires 3 Mbps for each stream.

Yesterday they finally released a proper spec sheet from which we learn:

  • The device is SIP capable (no surprise there.)
  • Maximum 83 degree field of view.
  • Gigabit Ethernet.
  • 10 camera presets (near or far end.)
  • Dedicated RJ for the Lifesize phone provides power to the phone via POE.
  • Audio codec support includes; Opus, G.722.1, G.722, G.711 and Siren 7.

I’m a big fan of dog-fooding. That’s actually using the tech that’s being pitched. So I was happy to see that the promo video used in the launch of the Icon 700 are actually produced in 4K.

Lifesize began as a manufacturer of end-points and MCUs. They were founded by Craig Malloy, General Manager of Polycom’s Video Communication Division, who was frustrated at how slowly Polycom was moving into HD video conferencing.

In 2015 they made a major pivot from being a maker of traditional, installed MCU hardware to offering their MCU back-end as a cloud service.

This is NOT the first that I’ve heard of 4K video conferencing, but it is the first time I’ve seen a 4K-capable end-point appliance with a real PTZ camera. The Icon 700 lists for $7,500 USD.

Webcams 2: LifeSize Desktop & The Logitech C9000

The first post in this series on webcams was historical. This one is as well, but it highlights the performance offered by the very first HD-capable webcam that was recommended for use in UC/video conference solutions.

logitech-webcam-pro-c9000There was a time when I was pursuing the ability to deploy HDVoice for my home office. If this were possible then it would improve not only my working life, but also that of my US co-workers.

This little quest harkens back to the summer of 2008. The idea was inspired by some time spent using the then newly released new Polycom SoundPoint IP550 & IP650 desk phones. Small Net Builder had asked me to review those phones and I found that using them was positively addictive.

While I might have the lovely Polycom hardware there was no way that I could convince my employer to replace our existing IP phones en masse. At the time they had around a dozen older SoundPoint models in service.

However, some  of our staff also used soft phones on Windows laptops. I saw this as a way to sneak HDVoice into the operation for minimal cost. The trick was to find a good, G.722-capable soft phone for a reasonable price.

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LifeSize on WebRTC Revisited

LifeSize WebRTC gateway LaptopA couple of weeks back Lifesize announced the availability of an experimental WebRTC gateway service. They made the announcement during a webinar on WebRTC. Of course, I went to try the service shortly thereafter. While I could make the test call to the address offered, I couldn’t reach anything else, nor was it exactly obvious how that should be done.

A couple of days later Emily G. from LifeSize PR responded to my inquiry about this. She offered to be the other end of a an initial test call, giving me her H.323 dialing string as a calling target.

At the appointed time I visited the the WebRTC test page using Chrome on my laptop and entered her H.323 address, which was just an IP address. The WebRTC gateway immediately connected us. We chatted briefly. She was able to explain how the gateway should accept typical H.323 dialing strings or a SIP URI.

The gateway worked reasonably well for this short call. The call quality was limited by my use of a laptop with it’s questionable built-in camera. Also by the fact that the laptop was online over my local Wifi. Wifi and high-bandwidth streaming media are not always a happy pair.

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LifeSize On WebRTC

LifeSize_Icon_SeriesLast week LifeSize had a webinar on the topic of WebRTC. I took an hour to listen to what they had to say and pose a couple of questions. Their target audience appeared to be people who might have heard some of the hype about WebRTC, but were not otherwise familiar with this new phenomenon. Suffice it to say that the material covered was introductory.

The webinar started with a pre-recorded video of Casey King, LifeSize CTO and Simon Dudley, who is described as LifeSize video evangelist. Their pre-recorded conversation was followed by an audio-only live segment where they answered questions arising from the audience, which was reported to be over 1000 people.

If you care to view the event after the fact you’ll find a recording of the webinar here.

During the live event I posed a couple of questions in the text chat. I asked if they had any plans to support the Opus audio codec and VP8 video codec. These are core aspects of WebRTC, although the debate about whether VP8 or H.264 should be “mandatory” rages on.

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Blue Jeans Network: H.323 & Skype Video Conferencing

A couple of weeks ago I started to play with a new service called Blue Jeans Network. This startup offers a cloud-based video conferencing service, effectively a cloud-based MCU. The service is presently free as it’s in a limited beta program. The beta program, originally set to expire this month, was just extended until June 15th.

At present their service supports connectivity via H.323, Skype and the PSTN. Of course,the PSTN dial-up means voice conferencing only…and thus only G.711. Clients connected via Skype get VGA resolution video and nice SILK-encoded audio.

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LifeSize Passport Now Supports Video Calling Skype Users

LifeSize-Passport-300In a most interesting press release LifeSize has announced support for video calling to/from Skype user from the LifeSize Passport end-point. The new capability is projected for release in the coming v4.8 software. It will be interesting it give this a try.

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.

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