Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tandberg Telepresence T3 Demonstration, An "Immersive Experience"

Videoconferencing technology has been around for a long time with early systems consisting of two closed-circuit television systems connected via cable. Scientists and engineers at Bell Telephone Laboratories pioneered in the development of television and, , demonstrated the first intercity TV transmission over wire with Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of Commerce, who made the first visual telephone call in 1927. Some other early examples are the German network set up between 1938 and 1940, and the British GPO lines at the same period. Bell Labs had a number of prototype PicturePhones which they first introduced in 1956. Most were one-way transmissions of picture and sound over telephone lines.

It wasn't until the 1964 World's Fair that the devices debuted to the public. Visitors to the exhibit used Picturephones, that transmitted voice and image between two nearby booths. Years later in 1970, AT&T introduced the Picturephone but it was still impractical and expensive and a commercial failure when first offered to consumers ($160/month for each fixed end-point). It wasn't until the 1980's when digital networks were deployed in the corporate sector and video compression standards were set that equipment manufacturers were able to deploy the expensive videoconferencing system into into the business sectors.

With the rise of IP networking it gave rise to desktop videoconferencing, or webcam conferencing with CU-SeeMe and Microsoft Netmeeting as well-known predecessors to Skype.

Today, this "immersive experience" has come full circle aided by the big push by by Cisco TelePresence technology into the mainstream. Telepresence technology is essentially a true high definition videoconferencing experience without all the distractions and numerous technical difficulties that generally plagues videoconferencing. The Telepresence room environment makes you to feel as if those you are conferencing with at the remote sites are actually sitting in the same room, with a life-like scale, movement and presence. Telepresence is defined as a real-life experience.

Tele - far off or at a distance
Presence - being present

Sagee Ben-Zedeff of Video over Enterprise says, "All telepresence systems aim to provide convincing stimuli, such that the user will perceive no difference between physical and virtual presence. In fact, even before they were known as “telepresence systems” most of the modern communication systems were trying to preserve some sense of telepresence (for instance, “talking to someone” on the telephone)."

These systems are not priced for the consumer market with the average cost of Cisco's TelePresence System 3200 at $340,000 per end point. Bandwidth also comes as premium with Cisco bandwidth requirements at 3-9 Mbps at 720p and 9-12 Mbps at 1080p for IP QoS (Quality of Service) connections.

While Cisco is a household name other companies like HP Halo, LifeSize, Tandberg, Polycom and notable smaller players, Teliris and Telanetix have their own Telepresence systems. I recently had the opportunity to see a demonstration of the Tandberg Telepresence T3 by Richard Grace of Tandberg at their Bay Area Executive Briefing Center. I was impressed by the quality, the room design and interoperability with non-telepresence systems.

Michael Brandofino, president and CEO of Glowpoint, a provider of managed video communications services says that there's "a perfect storm" for the future growth of telepresence. He notes that, "worldwide revenue opportunity for telepresence is projected to be $5 billion (U.S.) by 2011, with the largest portion of the revenue ($3.8 billion) driven by network and managed service revenues.” He identified Cisco's huge marketing campaign as one of the key drivers along with companies globalizing and todays workforce becoming more comfortable with the technology.

TANDBERG is the leading global provider of telepresence, high-definition video conferencing and mobile video products and services with dual headquarters in New York and Norway. TANDBERG designs, develops and markets systems and software for video, voice and data. The company provides sales, support and value-added services in more than 90 countries worldwide. TANDBERG is publicly traded on the Oslo Stock Exchange under the ticker TAA.OL. Please visit for more information.