Vidyo Telepresence

| Saturday, September 18th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

Yes, I know, it’s not Cisco related. But having spent some time on their products and recently finishing a 3-day technical training course, this is my review of Vidyo’s Personal Telepresence. I am going to  break it down into just a handful of topics.

  • Overview
  • Pricing/Products
  • Configuration/Setup
  • Final Thoughts.

Overview

Here’s a quick primer on Vidyo Inc. Founded in 2005 and based in Hackensack, NJ, they first began pushing their products to market in 2008. In just two short years, they’ve disrupted the traditional video conferencing market model with extremely aggressive price points. Basically allowing  a very large market of SMB’s to join the video conferencing/telepresence world without the $250,000 – $500,000+ price tag. And even more importantly, the ability to quickly setup a Vidyo unit within a day, if not hours (if you know what you’re doing) without the need for a staff of engineers, and utilizing your current infrastructure instead of having to depend on an MPLS or other private backbone for high quality conferencing. Now that is true unified communications! (I know I’m not winning any Cisco brownie points here)

Pricing & Products

I won’t get into the details of all their products and pricing as you can scour their website for that info.

http://www.vidyo.com/products/

Below is a quick diagram describing how their products are used and place in a typical setup.

Although they have many products, I believe their main sellers are the VidyoRouter which handles call control and relaying of signals. A VidyoPortal for admin purposes. And VidyoRoom conferencing units that are typically sold in three different models. Currently those models are HD-50, HD-100 and HD-220.

These VidyoRoom units come with an HD Sony Camera that can be remotely controlled pan/tilt/zoom. And your choice of a handful of high quality speakers/mic’s.

On the desktop side, they offer the VidyoDesktop which is a pretty lightweight application that uses any camera/mic that you may have laying around. Although to obtain a really good smooth telepresence experience, you are urged to use a USB based camera and microphones that can offer you better visual and sound effects.

Now, when I mean lightweight, I mean the installation takes less than a minute and isn’t entirely large file. But because they are doing away with the traditional and expensive MCU (which normally does the encoding/decoding) the processing is now handed over to the end user. So a modern PC or laptop is highly recommended.

This is the part where things can get a little finicky with the end user, as not everyone will have the same smooth high quality telepresence experience unless you have a modern PC. At least a Core 2 Duo in my opinion. But as the community of PC users phase out older machines, these types of issues will become more of a rarity. Before I move on, I want to speak a little bit more about the VidyoDesktop.

  1. It currently supports Windows and MAC. Linux support is underway. As well as support for iPad, iPhone/iTouch.
  2. It has a layered approach which is what makes their quality and algorithm stand out compared to other vendors. It will throttled back quality as it senses network congestion, this will help to keep the conversation going.
  3. As mentioned earlier, the VidyoDesktop is now handling MCU functions, so you will notice your PC working harder as you receive more video feeds in your conference. It can support up to 8 video feeds simultaneously.
  4. It supports active voice, so it will switch the main screen to whoever is currently talking. This can be turned on or off.
  5. Every end user owns their own “Personal Conference Room”, so they can host their own meetings. You can also create virtual meeting rooms that are more public that anyone can join. Any room, whether personal or public can be issued a PIN# for private access.
  6. There is an Outlook plugin for 2003/2007 that supports an easy way to invite users to your chatroom so guests can log in without the need to have an account.

From a pricing standpoint, I can give you a ballpark pricing for the HD-100, which I believe is what most clients opt for, ranges somewhere in the $3,000 – $4,000 range. Don’t quote me on that. But when you compare that ballpark price to $250,000 – $500,000+, you can see why the bigger vendors are losing sleep over this. Speaking of big vendors, Vidyo has recently partnered with HP, who will now be reselling Vidyo’s very own products, rebranded as HP. But keep in mind, that is just the video conferencing unit. You will need the Sony EVI-HD1 PTZ camera which is pretty costly at somewhere around $4,000. For smaller roll outs, you can order a VidyoOne unit which includes VidyoPortal, VidyoRouter and licensing in one package. This would then complete your Video conferencing infrastructure.

Oh BTW, if you need to access those expensive legacy video conferencing devices, then yes you can with the VidyoGateway, which from its name, acts as a gateway between the two vendors.

Configuration and Setup

Setting up their units isn’t entirely difficult, but there’s a lot to know. Just like any product, you need to take the time to understand where and how all the puzzles fit.

Now comes the VidyoDesktop side, yes, the end user side. This too is extremely easy to setup, the difficulty is end user training! And that isn’t necessarily Vidyo’s fault. The VidyoDesktop can detect your video camera and mic, but if you have multiple devices, say a laptop with integrated mic/camera, and you also have external USB camera/mic, it takes a little while for the end user to pick the right accessory to use. Again, it comes down to end user knowing what he/she has on their own PC/laptop! But once setup, it’s pretty hands off and doesn’t really need much maintenance. The VidyoDesktop keeps running, even when you are not in a conference so that people can quickly ping you for a direct call. It’s pretty neat.

Final Thoughts

Here are my final thoughts before this blog gets any longer. Vidyo really has something going on here, especially if they can catch the eye of HP. It truly is unified as I mentioned earlier. Because of their multi-layer system using H.264 SVC, they are able to provide smooth video even at low bandwidth, unlike traditional systems that begin to break apart after just a small amount of packet loss. Vidyo’s network resiliency is most definitely impressive. I expect Vidyo to continue to gain ground and marketshare as they push their products into more SMB’s and even possibly residential homes with the help of HP’s partnership.

In order to purchase their products, you must go through a reseller. If you are interested in checking them out, go to their website and give them a shout and see what they can do for you! If you are in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area and would like a demo, contact me and I’ll see what I can do for you!

Happy conferencing!

http://www.vidyo.com

PS – I’d like to thank our trainers Joe Baltes and Chris Arnold at Vidyo who clearly knew their products and answered all my questions. Their depth of knowledge was impressive.

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