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September 26, 2006

Beam Me Up, Polycom

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director
In today’s collaborative, presence-based business environment, most large distributed enterprises have, by now, either implemented some sort of video conferencing facility or are at the very least exploring their options. It can certainly be useful to see colleagues in a small box on your PC monitor and speak to him through your desktop phone. Many would agree it can make a conversation more productive, especially when you are able to share documents at the same time.



But, image being in a specially designed room, talking to the same colleague, and almost forgetting they are miles away. Imagine them as life-size images sitting at your table, with no microphone or camera in sight. Or imagine the same thing with two groups of colleagues, or three, or four … you get the point.



That is precisely what Polycom has been demonstrating. is just what you have just imagined, and more. It is a modular facility designed to fit nearly anywhere — they are available with seating for four to more than twenty participants — in which participants can interact with their colleagues in other similar facilities almost as though they are in the same conference room. As you speak to your team members eye to eye, about the only way to tell they are not is to try to shake their hands.

Polycom’s (News - Alert) immersive room experience includes giant eight- or sixteen-foot video screens that capture life-like images of co-workers in similar RPX facilities. The small cameras are embedded into the screens and the microphones are similarly hidden in the ceiling, leaving meeting participants with minimal distractions so they are able to focus on the task at hand. The video screens also are curved, giving an even more impressive of feeling of being in the same room. Even the studio quality lighting in the ceiling has been designed to minimize shadow effects typically exposed through cameras and bring out natural skin tones. The ceilings and walls themselves have been treated with sound masking materials, virtually eliminating outside noise. And the sound within the rooms is maximized through the use of a single audio system to deliver crystal clear sound, rather than multiple individual speakers.

But the real marvel behind the RPX is that, through its use of “human factors engineering,” Polycom has been able to make conference participants become completely unaware of their technologically advanced surroundings — particularly that they are on a video conference. In essence, they have succeeding in making the technology disappear for the conferees. Whether sitting in and RPX 204 (which seats four) or and RPX 428 (which can accommodate up to 28), conference attendees can easily forget their colleagues are sitting in a similar facility miles, states, or even continents away.

Furthermore, because the RPX platform is standards-based it can be used in conjunction with legacy equipment (both voice and video), maximizing previous investments in technology. The only limiting factor to the number of multipoint calls that can be added is the conference bridge itself. Importantly, it can all be done off-site by a third party, so none of the conference participants have to worry about dialing and connecting additional people.

The facilities also include personal data monitors, which can be used to share information with other participants using Polycom’s included software applications and network and power connections at each seat in the room.

For enterprises and government customers, who are always mindful of accumulating costs, it is also important to note that the RPX rooms are, by virtue of their modular design, free-standing and moveable, so that their all-inclusive immersive environment can be relocated if necessary.

If this seems unbelievable, believe it. This is the ultimate enterprise play, for sitting in the RPX 210 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, one gets the sense of sitting next to William Shatner on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, complete with its life-size screen. In fact, about the only thing the RPX can’t do with its real world collaborative setting is beam you from New York to Virginia. But it’s the next best thing.

What’s the number one VoIP conference in terms of attendance? What’s the leading VoIP expo for exhibitors in terms of lead generation? And which VoIP industry event will feature special attractions for service providers, resellers, and the enterprise and SMB market as well as an overview on the Future of IP Telephony? Answer: INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo, WEST, which runs October 10-13, 2006. See you in San Diego!

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Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY. Most recently, he was Managing Editor at Global Custodian, an international securities services publication. To see more of his articles, please visit Erik Linask’s columnist page.
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