Federal E-Rate Program Helping K-12 Classrooms Travel the Globe

It’s easy to forget that one of the greatest discoveries of modern science began with a field trip. An inquisitive undergraduate at Cambridge University with a fascination for the natural world was given an opportunity to leave the classroom and set sail. This voyage from England to the shores of South America resulted in the theory of natural selection and catapulted the amateur naturalist, Charles Darwin, into the history books.

We can all recall participating in field trips of our own during our school years. Those bumpy rides at the back of museum-bound yellow buses may have helped us identify with Darwin’s bouts with seasickness, but our destination was most likely some place across town and not the exotic Galapagos. New technology, however, is helping resurrect the adventuresome spirit of Darwin, offering children access to learning opportunities not just around the block but around the globe.

We recently had the good fortune to see this new kind of learning in action at the San Carlos Charter Learning Center (SCCLC). Vidyo’s platform for education provided 22 California middle-schoolers the opportunity to spend an afternoon at a museum in Denver, 1,289 miles from their Bay Area classroom. The students participated in a virtual class on the circulatory system, and in the true spirit of scientific inquiry, they each got the chance to virtually dissect a sheep’s heart.

“The students and I formed a relationship with the science educator in Denver, and at a point, the monitor disappeared and it was as if he was in our classroom as one of us.”

“Seeing a heart on an iPad made learning accessible and interactive in a new way the students had never experienced before,” explained Ben Sibrack, a science and language teacher at SCCLC.  “The students and I formed a relationship with the science educator in Denver, and at a point, the monitor disappeared and it was as if he was in our classroom as one of us.”

Virtual field trips can bring course material to life in ways not possible with traditional, less interactive learning.  “We got to have our lesson in a whole new way. I thought it was really cool, different and fun,” explained one young student.  Another 6th grader surprised us by revealing, “I liked the virtual trip better than a real field trip because I can focus better in the classroom.”

Only a few short years ago, video conferencing was reserved for the Fortune 500 and universities with deep pockets. Today, however, HD-quality, multi-person conferences can take place over ordinary broadband networks and off-the-shelf computers already installed in most classrooms. To help schools make video conferencing an affordable reality, Vidyo is announcing that our education products are now eligible for discounts through E-Rate, a federally funded program that provides assistance for schools and libraries to purchase telecommunications and Internet access.

Museums, zoos, research institutes and theaters are embracing virtual fieldtrips via video conferencing as a way to expand their educational mission and reach a wider array of learners. A classroom today can travel to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA to learn about the attack on Pearl Harbor, visit The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to take a virtual walk through forest canopies, or learn how to prepare a space shuttle for lift-off at NASA’s America’s Spaceport: John F. Kennedy Space Center. We hope that E-Rate and virtual field trips will help to democratize education by making world-class learning resources available to all learners.

“There’s so much potential with what we can do with HD, multiparty video conferencing over the Internet.  It gives us the opportunity to really break down barriers and change how we educate, in a way that was never thought possible a few years ago,” explained Mr. Sibrack. “With the kind of video conferencing that Vidyo delivers, we’re able to easily set up collaborative educational communities between schools within the Bay Area.  For that matter, we’ll now be able to set up collaborative communities across the U.S. and internationally as well.  These possibilities are amazing.”

I came to the United States to study and be part of the computer revolution.  Today, our schools are challenged to provide the level of educational exposure required to keep our students competitive with the world.  I believe one of the issues is that schools don’t have access to experts locally but, ironically, the United States has the largest resources of such experts in country – making it a distribution problem. Vidyo conferencing and communications solves this problem by bringing the experts closer to students and by making educational content available virtually from everywhere.

Click here to learn more about bringing Vidyo to your classroom through the E-Rate program.

Who’s First? The Race for Mobile Video Conferencing…

…And does it really matter?

      • December 2010 – Elisa service on Galaxy- first mobile service offering
        by a telecom provider on a tab and phone
      • August 2011 – Vidyo’s mobile client is available in the Apple App Store
        delivering multipoint HD videoconferencing for both iPhone and iPad
      • October 2011 – Polycom announces first enterprise HD video software
        solution for tablets

Who was first? Others have called out Polycom for making this false claim.  While Vidyo was both first to demo multipoint video conferencing on a mobile device (January 2010 in Paul Otellini’s CES keynote) as well as deliver multi-party videoconferencing on a smartphone and tablet, the real issue for enterprise decision makers is not about who is first, but about who can deliver a complete solution. With the memory of Steve Jobs still in sharp focus, I’m reminded that it is not about a specific product, but about delivering for the user the most satisfying effortless experience.

With the memory of Steve Jobs still in sharp focus, I’m reminded that it is not about a specific product, but about delivering for the user the most satisfying effortless experience.

In videoconferencing, porting an application to run on a device is only a small part of the requirement—this just delivers the potential for a personal video communication device. Having an intuitive UI for entering and interacting within a videoconference is another part of the experience. But the most important aspect is the actual video interaction that makes the communication experience natural and engaging. The challenge is that mobile devices use wireless networks—WiFi, 3G or 4G—and packets will be dropped and bandwidth may be limited as well as highly variable. And, an enterprise quality solution must be capable of multi-party conferences that enable communication with other mobile devices as well as desktop and room system participants who may encode at far higher resolutions.

Delivering on this challenge requires a completely different infrastructure architecture than what is offered by the old market leaders such as Polycom whose MCU architecture was designed for perfect connectivity such as provided by ISDN, and has now developed Band-Aid approaches including Forward Error Correction, Loss Packet Recovery and others to deal with the Wireless.Wild.West non-guaranteed QoS bandwidth. The result is lackluster performance and increased overhead that further exacerbates the challenging network conditions.

And the bad news gets worse for legacy MCU architectures when it comes to multipoint. When you have a mobile device interacting with another mobile device and an HD room system, the MCU transcodes and gives the gift of additional latency. Since it must transcode to enable disparate devices to be in the same multiparty meeting, it degrades the video quality in the process as well as adds delay. The problem is that for a natural interaction to occur on a mobile device, there just is not any time available for transcoding. Sure you can do it, but the experience is no longer satisfying. You’ll speak over each other, develop a tendency to pause before speaking, and other unnatural behaviors that will make you long for just a phone call or in-person meeting. Clearly, not an “Apple-quality” solution.

Vidyo was built with mobile devices in mind. Vidyo pioneered the use of the recent video compression standard—H.264 SVC— in video conferencing because it enables a latency-free way to adapt to packet loss.  Vidyo created an architecture that intelligently routes packets to each participant’s device based upon the resolution required, computational capability and bandwidth available, and to do so by dynamically adapting many times a second to changing conditions. And in a multiparty conference, it does this without transcoding so it maintains original video quality and adds less than 10msec delay because it makes packet routing decisions with no need to perform complex computational gymnastics. The user experiences natural HD quality multiparty videoconferencing that is engaging.

While this alone differentiates the Vidyo solution, the win for an enterprise deployment is that the Vidyo infrastructure can be deployed for 10% of the cost of the old Polycom MCU architecture. A single 1U VidyoRouter device can support 100 simultaneous participants. VidyoRouters can be geographically deployed to minimize bandwidth consumption. Since Vidyo is a software solution with central capacity license management, the full pool of licenses is available to all VidyoRouters as needed. The result is a dramatically lower number of licenses required to be purchased. And best of all, Vidyo only needs non-guaranteed QoS networks including internal bandwidth. The cost savings of moving away from dedicated video networks may pay for the entire Vidyo infrastructure!

So maybe this is why Polycom resorts to a misleading announcement. It craves for leadership, but it’s saddled with an old architecture that just can’t.

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Marty Hollander

Marty Hollander is Vidyo’s SVP of Market Development. With more than 20 years of high-tech marketing experience, Marty specializes in developing lasting strategic assets through creative market development. Previously, Marty served as Vice President of Marketing at Cemaphore Systems, Latitude Communications (later acquired by Cisco) and ProactiveNet (later acquired by BMC). He also founded CollectiveSpace and IntelliCorp, where he played a variety of executive roles. Marty has also held senior level positions at Silicon Graphics and Storm Technology. Marty earned an MBA from Stanford University as well as an MS from Carnegie-Mellon University.

 

Video Conferencing on the iPad, iPhone and Android Tablets and Smartphones

While VidyoMobile makes it possible to participate in unbelievably high quality multi-party video conferences over the broadband mobile network while you’re barreling down the highway, only do so from the passenger seat! Texting while driving has become a significant road hazard and is responsible for countless accidents—and texting has very limited engagement.  Just imagine how much more difficult it would be to concentrate on driving if you had a natural HD video interaction that made it feel like the participants were sitting in the car with you.

But there are so many other “safe” ways to use VidyoMobile that improves your flexibility to meet people face-to-face, and independently of whether the “far-end” participants are using mobile devices, laptop or desktop computers, SVC or H.323 appliance based room systems, or immersive telepresence systems. Assuming the iPad2 as the platform (and it really is a video conferencing endpoint in tablet clothing), there are three compelling modalities for the use of VidyoMobile.

Desktop Video Phone

VidyoMobile on a docked iPad 2 joining an HD multipoint video conference at 720p with 4 other laptops. (Note: This picture has not been photoshopped in any way.)

One of the nice things about using popular commercially available devices is ready access to low cost and very cool peripherals. Using an off-the-shelf speaker dock, VidyoMobile can turn your iPad2 into a very handy desktop video phone with a slim foot print.  This enables the user to have a stable hands-free experience with rich audio.  Since VidyoMobile supports shared content viewing and the neat zoom in/ zoom out pinch gestures provided by iOS, the collaborative experience is compelling.  And of course, when you are not VidyoConferencing, you can use it to add music to your work environment.

Mobile Access

VidyoMobile on Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 viewing a shared PowerPoint presentation while joining a multipoint video conference with 4 other laptops. (Note: This picture has not been photoshopped in any way.)

Not all mobility happens in cars.  Could be that a doctor wants to walk down the hall to pick up lab results, in which case she could just pull the VidyoMobile device off of the dock and take the conference with her.  Since VidyoMobile on the iPad2 offers the ability to switch between front and rear facing cameras, mobility also means delivering “see what I see” capability into a conference. For a customer support specialist who is showing an engineer in a remote lab a problem on customer site, a process engineer who wants to show the design house a manufacturability issue on the production line, or a biologist in the field showing a rare plant life to a life sciences class half way around the world, this is mobility at its best.  Of course, mobility may also mean face to face interaction from the back of a cab, on board a train or in an airport.

Ad-hoc Room System

VidyoMobile on iPad 2 joining an HD multipoint video conference at 720p with 4 other laptops and a room system. (Note: This picture has not been photoshopped in any way.)

Did you know that there is an optional HDMI dongle for the iPad2?  Even better, the dongle also supports simultaneous connection to power.  So now the same device that you are able to use in a dock as a desktop video phone, and then undock and continue to use in-transit, can now connect to a large screen 1080P display when you get to your destination so that multiple people can participate in the conference from the same location as the VidyoMobile device.  While the conference room is certainly a popular application, just image taking a meeting or connecting with friends and family from your couch with the conference on your living room TV.

So remember, even though VidyoMobile simplifies the user experience to a screen tap to enter a conference with no devices to configure or manage, please don’t video conference while behind the wheel of a car.  There are plenty of other safe and productive ways and opportunities to use VidyoMobile. Besides, with the ability to meet face-to-face with anyone, anytime, from anywhere, you’ll have less reason to be behind the wheel of your car in the first place.

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More info:

- VidyoMobile demonstration on iPad 2: View on YouTube.
- Full VidyoMobile press release: “Vidyo HD Multipoint Video Conferencing App for iPad2, iPhone Available Now”

Noteworthy News from the Nordic

Another video conferencing FIRST was announced today: The FIRST video conferencing service that lets business users engage in HD room and desktop video conferencing VIA THEIR SMART PHONES AND TABLETS.  We’re talking about enterprise-grade, multi-party, TV-quality video conferencing on your smart phone or tablet!

This goes way beyond one mobile device interacting with another mobile device.  This new mobile service from leading Nordic communications service provider, Elisa, is being piloted on the Samsung Galaxy phone and tablet. Unlike other recent announcements, this is not something that anyone has to wait for or wonder about.  It’s available today – in the Nordic region using the Elisa service on a Galaxy Tab or smart phone.

Video conferencing for Enterprises is becoming main stream. And for this reason, businesses are looking for conferencing products and technology that are MOBILE, to let anyone, anywhere participate.  They’re looking for services and solutions that let you connect to important conferences on your smart phone or tablet, along with other participants who are on room systems, desktops, laptops, etc.  If you’ve been following the news and this blog then you know that, yes, it is only Vidyo who offers the SVC-based architecture to make this possible.

[Click here to watch a clip posted in last week's blog post that demonstrates VidyoMobile on a Samsung Galaxy]

Businesses that are investing in enterprise-grade video conferencing today need to know that the solution they choose can be leveraged, not only across room systems and desktop video communications, but will also extend beyond, into the realm of mobile devices.  They need to invest in an architecture that serves the widest variety of communications devices.  That’s why more and more service providers, such as Elisa, along with carriers, distributors, and Enterprise customers are turning to Vidyo.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments about this!

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Related Links:

- Full press release: “Elisa Corporation to Pilot First Multi-Party TV-Quality Video Conferencing on Smart Phones and Tablets”
- Last week’s Vidyo blog post: “Telepresence: Coming soon to a Galaxy Near You”
- David Gardner’s article on InformationWeek: “Vidyo Intros Enterprise Videoconferencing For Samsung Galaxy
VidyoMobile iPad Demonstration Video
- Matt Hamblen’s article in ComputerWorld: “Update: Galaxy Tab sales hit 1M mark

“Platforms” to be the theme of this year’s LeWeb Conference

Today marks the beginning of one of Europe’s most important IT conferences: the 2010 LeWeb conference in Paris. This event brings together some of the world’s most influential IT entrepreneurs, press, bloggers, investors, and visionaries and provides a forum for discussions about the latest trends and debates on the Internet ecosystem.

With this year’s LeWeb theme being Platforms, we are very eager to follow the event at Vidyo. Among the many speakers, key figures in the IT industry like Google Vice President Marissa Mayer, MySpace CEO Mike Jones, Nokia SVP of design Marko Ahtisaar, head of Intel’s APS Peter Biddle, Twitter VP of Product Jason Goldman, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, American blogger Robert Scoble, author Leo Laporte, etc. will take the stage.

We will be at the conference and will make sure to report anything of interest about the future of IT.

Vidyo will be taking part in the #LeWeb #LeWeb10 Twitter conversation and we hope you will join us there … Let us know what you think!

Make IT Personal

If your life is anything like mine, you may find yourself longing for a personal assistant.  Someone who can off load mundane tasks that consume time but aren’t core to your daily objectives.  Of course such a luxury is not in most of our household budgets, but what if your smart phone were truly smart enough to perform this role?

VidyoMobile Technology Demonstration on Samsung Galaxy, iPad and iPhone 4

VidyoMobile Technology Demonstration on Samsung Galaxy, iPad and iPhone 4

Justin Rattner’s keynote address in the final day of the Intel Developer’s Forum focused on context computing – making the machine more aware of the user’s surroundings so that it could best provide information and services without being specifically asked to do so.  One application that is being co-developed between Intel and Fodor enables a hand held travel companion to proactively identify nearby points of interest, restaurants, and even make recommendations with regard to appropriate attire based upon weather conditions.  The device utilizes a variety of “hard” (accelerometer, GPS, etc.) and “soft” (web searches, calendar, etc.) sensors to learn about the user’s behavior, tastes and preferences such that the device become better at anticipating the user’s interests over time.

This technology is intriguing with a great many applications that can enhance the user’s quality of life, but as is the case with most behavior altering technologies, there is a cost. Increasingly, our interactions during the course of the day are with machines, lacking a certain critical element – the human element.  For example, if I were touring a vacation spot and didn’t have a device to tell me where to eat, I would stop to ask one of the locals where the best restaurants are in town. In doing so, I may engage in conversation and learn something new about the area and satisfy my basic human need for interaction with other people.

But perhaps there is a compromise.  What if my smart phone could be my personal assistant and off load mundane tasks but then connect me face to face with other people when I am ready for human interaction?  This is the beauty of VidyoMobile – making sure that your personal assistant remains… well… personal.

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Related Links:

- VidyoMobile Demonstration
- BusinessWeek Article: Virtual Meetings for Real-World Budgets
- TechCrunch Article: Vidyo Bets On The iPad And iPhone for the Future of Videoconfering
- PC Mag’s Article:  Video Telephony: The Next Big Thing. Again.