What's New?

What’s New? By Bryan Hellard President, True View Video LLC

As I‘ve stated before, I was surprised by the lack of room video conferencing systems at Infocomm and what I did see was a slight polishing of ‘been there, done that’. Let me be the first to say that three screen systems are dying if not dead. Well, maybe I’m not the first, but I haven’t read of its specific demise yet by anyone else in the industry. We’ve all read the subjective commentary that hardware is dead, telepresence is dead, etc. These statements come from the marketing departments of companies who sell competing products. While I don’t sell a competing product it doesn’t mean that my opinion is any more or less valid than the next guy, but here are a few reasons I think the six year run of the three screen system is over.

The experience of a three screen system reminds me of watching the evening news, where the anchors are locked into position in a perfect atmosphere for presenting the news and staring right into the camera (teleprompter). While this sounds great in theory, meetings are not like the news, it’s much more dynamic with people giving stand up presentations and walking into and out of the room. The most telling negative of these systems is that if you stand up, all the other endpoint can see is your torso. Same thing applies to someone who is late to the meeting. The person can’t just walk into the room and start talking to the others. The others can hear them and see his torso, but not his face until he sits down. This is poor design and I’m not going to go into the eye contact issues of putting three cameras on top of the center display.

It’s as if almost everyone stopped caring about the entire experience. I can make a three screen system and so can you. Doing so doesn’t take a whole lot of thought when you go in with the mindset of “Because we are so good of a company, these things will sell themselves!”.

Three hundred thousand dollars. I will let that sink in for a second. Three hundred thousand dollars. That’s $50,000 per person, per system. By the way, the era of an overcomplicated touch screen system in a telepresence room is just about over as well. Justifying the $300k by including a tens of thousands of dollars user interface and hardware control combo just won’t cut it anymore. As we’re getting dumber as a people we are demanding our products be dumbed down as well. Somehow, we want video conferencing to be like the old land line telephone even though that can’t really happen due to people having 5 different things they can use for video conferencing. But that won’t stop us from complaining about how difficult a touch screen is. For the record, that’s not my personal opinion as I disagree with wanting everything dumbed down.

Bring Your Own Fancy Marketing Term
Big displays and lots of gear are no longer the flavor of the month. Software/cloud/mobile products that marketing departments call telepresence/immersive/free/cheap is the new flavor. What we used to think was a cool experience to see people life size from across the country or globe people has been replaced with people thinking that having a video chat on a phone is cool. Video on a phone has its place in my world, but not necessarily as a face to face device. I see it more as a tool to see things remotely, not people. The iPad is certainly better for video and it's going to be something I'll have to get used to.

Bryan Hellard is the President of True View Video LLC, a telepresence consulting and design company located in West Chester, Ohio. He is known to be quite opinionated in the field of video conferencing and the opinions are of his only and not those of clients, contractors or coworkers. Bryan can be reached via email at bryan@hellarddesign.com and on twitter @bryanhellard