Presence of mind

Video-conferencing is finally coming of age and catching up with the latest technologies. Brid-Aine Conway was in Paris for the demonstration of Polycom's newest video-conferencing product.

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By  Brid-Aine Conway Published  January 13, 2008

Once upon a time, video-conferencing was all about talking heads on wheels. A TV would be rolled into the conference room on a trolley and a head shot would address the meeting.

Interaction was limited and often led to confusion and misunderstanding because of time delays in broadcasting and receiving the audio and video. So interaction was avoided where possible, leading to video-conferencing being not that much different from watching an actual video.

We’re introducing this very advanced Polycom technology which will enable students in Washington and Doha to take the same class at the same time together

Now, welcome to the future, where it's all about presence - telepresence to be precise. This is the new wave of video-conferencing, riding the current tide of green- and carbon-conscious business to offer less employee travel - saving those carbon-miles, not to mention travel costs - and as close to "real-life" interaction as technologically possible.

Polycom, which has been specialising in unified collaboration for voice, video, data and the web since 1990, displayed its new telepresence systems in Paris in November. Polycom RealPresence Experience High Definition (RPX HD) products are designed to offer a conference or meeting event in high definition video, with surround sound audio and high resolution content that allows video and audio capture of participants, as well as data such as presentations, to be presented in "real time".

Instead of time delays and participants in different sites talking over each other, RPX should provide an interactive experience, where people are talking with, rather than at, each other. And so far, it seems that businesses are interested.

Robert Stead, EMEA marketing director at Polycom, says there are 180 Polycom RPX rooms up and running worldwide, and he feels signs are positive for a high uptake of the products here in the Middle East.

"I think there's a lot of things that are characteristic of the way RPX is used which work very well [in the Middle East]. You need good access to bandwidth, you need organisations which have expensive people who need to communicate a lot. The energy business in general is very focused on these kinds of things, the financial business is very focused for the same sort of reasons. We expect to see some positive things," he says.

Georgetown University at Education City in Doha, is Polycom's first Middle East customer, although "several others are in discussion", according to Stead.

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