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OnStar Skype and Internet concept

Looking back through my gigabytes of CES footage, I stumbled across this cool vid that I hadn’t previously posted. There was a handsome new shape Buick Lacrosse at Verizon’s booth that OnStar had decked out with all kinds of gadgety funkiness. The Lacrosse had a built-in Verizon’s 4G LTE modem with tricked out software that allowed the navigation screen to pull data from the Internet such as headlines and YouTube vids. Perhaps even more amazing were the exterior cameras that captured a collision to help catch the perp, and an interior camera for live Skype video calling. It’s just a concept for now, but this all looked pretty much ready for primetime. Here’s hoping!

Neil Berman

Feb 5, 2011 Posted by | CES, Hardware, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Times have changed since King Arthur’s Roundtable

Is this the answer to travel expenses which accounting departments have been waiting for?

Is this the answer to travel expenses which accounting departments have been waiting for?


As the economy falters and technology gets cheaper, voice and video conferencing become even more appealing.

Conference calls, the ever present enabler of virtual teams, are great.  They allow coworkers from around the world to work together more easily, aid flexible working hours across timezones and, in the consumer market, help families get together through apps like Skype.

Conference calls, the ever present confuser of global communications, can also be problematic.  They can result in mixed messages and confusion, often because you can’t see the other participants who, (to make matters worse) could be muted or away from the phone.

Videoconferencing systems aim to alleviate this, normally with a screen mounted camera pointing at a room of participants.  Whilst this gives a picture, it can be a struggle to enjoy clear engagement with everyone in the room.  More sophisticated systems such as HP’s Halo try to ‘put’ virtual participants in the same custom built room at significant cost – Halo installations start at $249,000 plus running expenses.

Cue the Microsoft Roundtable. This curious looking device aims to provide a more active videoconferencing experience at a reasonable price.

Fortunately it’s the Roundtable doing the active bit, not you.  Whilst the base resembles a typical conference phone design with mics pointing in different directions, it’s at the top that things get interesting.

Cameras mounted at the base of the mirrors can be directed automatically at talking participants

Cameras mounted at the base of the mirrors can be directed automatically at talking participants

Hiding under the dust cover are cameras pointing at angled mirrors.  This means that from a central location the Roundtable can get a good 360 view.  Better still, the cameras are motorized so they can be directed at individual participants.  Killer app?  The Roundtable can focus the screen image on whoever is talking.  Sweet.

In practise it works really well, operating as the daddy of all webcams when paired up with Office Communicator 2007 or the 2007 version of Office Live Meeting.  Speech and video over IP came through clearly on the occasions I’ve seen it in action and the directional cameras are an elegant solution to the ‘everyone face the screen’ problem.

It’s still fairly expensive at $3000 but compared to air travel for a couple of team members it represents a collaboration upgrade to business class for the whole group.  So look out for this coming to a meeting room near your cubicle soon if your company can afford it.  Question is for the benefits it brings to virtual teamworking, can companies afford not to?

Neil Berman

Oct 10, 2008 Posted by | Hardware, Microsoft, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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