Rating: 4 WaterTowers (state-of-the art video quality)
It has been a long time developing, but, this past week I finally had a chance to download and meet with people using Vidyo.
Several people had suggested I test it and also told me how good the video was. So I was expecting a lot. Usually, when I have high expectations I come away disappointed (a certain Telepresence capability being one such instance).
I came out of the Vidyo meeting completely astounded by the video quality. The meeting naturalness (meaning the lack of delays, stumbling over one another when talking, etc) was perfect. At one point one of the participants called me on the phone and there was no delay between his lips and the sound coming over the telephone. I have never experienced phone to video syncing…until now. Outstanding.
If I were rating Vidyo on video (and audio and meeting naturalness) quality alone, Vidyo would have gotten a 5. But, I also factor in data collaboration and a few other features…these brought the score down.
But…this is not a problem for Vidyo. I was told that they are focused on video / audio over data collaboration.
In that respect, Vidyo is astounding…did I say that already? I saw a few things that I had never seen before…I already mentioned one, the other is further down. 🙂
Overview of VidyoConferencing
VidyoConferencing consists of several components that work together to provide a full range of videoconferencing needs. VidyoConferencing was designed with modification in mind.
From Adi at Vidyo: “The intention is not for any customer to change the experience but rather to bigger customers (like CPS’s). In addition the customization isn’t just for appearance, but can include a full change of the logic , features etc..”
For an extra cost, API’s (pieces of software that allow you to interface with your own design) exist that allow the customer to develop their unique interface and “experience”.
Really quickly (and totally unofficial) here are the main components (see diagram leading off this blog entry):
1. VidyoRoom is a room based videoconferencing system offering HD quality (and easy access to the VidyoPortal) at frames rates up to 60 fps. It allows connection to two TV’s.
2. VidyoPortal is the user interface to the Internet where you can locate available people or rooms and launch calls.
3. VidyoRouter this is “the heart” of the system. The meetings video, audio, and data are fed through the router and from there the video, audio, and data streams are parsed out to each participant according to their own capabilities. NOTE: Distributed routers are possible and one router can support 100 HD ports. Cool.
4. VidyoGateway is the interface between the H.264/SVC capable VidyoConferencing and the standards based H.323 videoconferencing world. It supports H.264, H.263 for video, G.711 and G.722 audio, and SIP and H.323 signalling.
5. VidyoDesktop is a desktop (computer-based) browser application that works on Mac and Windows right now, but, was designed to be able to work on Linux as demand dictates.
Download and Install
Going to the site to download Vidyo, I found that the installation was done before I even realized it had started. Geezz…I missed the best part (where I get coffee and relax for a bit while the apps are downloading).
Once completed, ths following screen came up. This is the main screen from the VidyoPortal where participants can find other participants or rooms and make the calls.
As with the new generation of desktop products, the call launching is accomplished via a web browser (supported browsers include: IE, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari).
I had to be set-up as a user on the VidyoPortal system then once that was complete I went the URL to log into my own launch screen.
Making a Call
Once in the launch screen, I searched for Mike and found myself (twice!). I am online and that my extension is 5438.
The making of the call can best be explained by watching yet another Oscar worthy movie. While you are watching this remember that Marty, Benita, and my video signals are going to New Jersey, through the VidyoRouter, and then back to us. We are all in the once great state of California.
NOTE: The video quality is not as good as the actual meeting. If someone wants to donate a super great camera to TelBitConsulting…I will accept ! 🙂
Meeting Screen Shots
This screen shot does not show the complete quality of the meeting video, but, it gives you a pretty good idea. Hmmmm, seeing it posted these came out pretty good! 🙂
One feature that I have never seen before (and was totally amazed by) was that the video of the active apeakers (Adi and Marty on top) in the meeting was super crisp while the quieter participants (Benita and Ckristian on the bottom to my left) were a bit blurry. To show how the blurry participants video got better (MUCH better) the quieter participants started talking. Before my eyes the video quality improved dramatically!
I was like a kid in a candy store….this was really cool. 🙂
So cool that I did not get a screen shot of it….arrrghhhh…
After the meeting was over, Adi went back to his HD videoconferencing system and called me direct. Figure 4 shows the resulting video.
Note that I could not recieve HD video but had excellent “VGA” quality. Remember: I am using the same DSL line and Toshiba laptop that I have used for all the reviews on this Blog, so my capabilites are limited.
TelBitConsulting says: Vidyo handled my communication limitations flawlessly.
As I mentioned above the data collaboration features are lacking.
During the meeting the remote participants (mostly Ckristian) pulled up slides and screen shots for us to see. I was able to se the data in both the video window and also in it’s own separate window. In the Oscar winning video, I show me fumbling around trying to get the windows in order, but, once you get the feel, this is a very nice feature.
Multiple people can share their data. I could then choose which window I want to view. If you have two monitors, you can put the data one one and the video on the other.
On the roadmap for later this year are:
1. Recording capability (and playback)
2. Application sharing (where participants can work together on a doc)
3. H.239 capability
Scoop (My FIRST!!!) and Outlook Interoperability
After I posted this, I remembered one thing I am allowed to mention. VidyoDesktop works on Windows 7. Figure 5 shows a screen shot Ckristian sent me from a Windows 7 box.
Figure 6 shows the VidyoDesktop Outlook integration capability. I believe this was also on the Windows 7 box. But I can check on that…
When I first connected we experienced one problem with my audio. No one could hear me.
In my infinite wisdom, before the meeting (fearing feedback) I connected my mic / headset combo into my Toshiba laptop. These plugged into the available audio ports (not USB) and I have used the mic / headset successfully many times.
It turns out, that Vidyo recommends you use a USB mic. Once I switched to the mic on my Logitech 4000 web cam, the audio worked perfectly.
Lesson learned….use a USB mic when you use Vidyo. 🙂
I have tested and seen three of the new generation desktop videoconferencing products. It does my heart good to see the progress in this area.
If you are an employee at a a medium to large corporation (my opinion is that the small business or loner business like myself will still be better served by ooVoo, SightSpeed, Skype or Polycom PVX, Mirial Softphone, and like applications) these new server based videoconferencing applications will serve you very well at work, at home, or on the road (Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, airport, hotel, etc).
Vidyo gave me, by far, the best video I have seen in a desktop product….EVER (and those who know me, know I have been at this a long time). I’ll even go so far as to say it is better than my “Telepresence” experience.
Save money, save the environment, telecommute…start with a desktop videoconferencing system.
Pricing Information (for those who are asking)
From Adi at Vidyo
All the pricing info below is List Price.
Vidyo offers a annual subscription model for Ports and Seats:
Ports – HD Conferencing Ports – $750-$1000 (according to quantity) per port per year
Seats – Number of registered users on the VidyoPortal – $25 per seat per year
Installs – VidyoDesktop Installs (PC or MAC) per machine – $5 one time (upgrades and re-installs don’t consume an Install)
Perpetual licenses pricing is available.
Guest users don’t require a seat license but consumes an install.
Also available VidyoRouter Event Ports which enables additional ports on the VidyoRouter for a duration of 7 days.
VidyoPortal – an appliance to manage Users, System’s components and Meeting. Includes VidyoRouter functionality for small deployments up to 50 ports – $6,000 (one time)
VidyoRouter – base appliance to host VidyoRouter Ports, can host up to 100 HD Ports – $6,000 (one time)
VidyoGateway – Gateway appliance to connect with Legacy Videoconferencing endpoints – $9,950
Annual Maintenance fee is charged only on appliances (not on the licensed ports, seats or installs).
Thanks to Marty, Adi, Benita, Ckristian, orish, Christian, Chris, and Rich for all your help, comments, and suggestions.