Vidyo Releases Videoconferencing System

The VidyoRoom HD-220 steps into the telepresence arena with Cisco -- at a fraction of the cost.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

January 22, 2010

3 Min Read

Telepresence -" hyper-realistic videoconferencing -" has garnered significant hype in the last two years, and not without reason, but the technology is simply too expensive for most companies to afford.

Videoconferencing start-up Vidyo sees an important niche that isn't being filled, and hopes to fill that gap with its VidyoRoom HD-220, a high-definition, room-based videoconferencing system announced Monday. The cost is a fraction of the $250,000 it might cost to get a high-end Cisco telepresence system running.

A complete videoconferencing room based on the HD-220, which costs $6,995 for the endpoint itself, adds up to about $25,000 to $30,000 when high-definition cameras and screens, high-quality audio, and the traffic-shaping Vidyo router are factored in.

It may lack the polish of systems from t Cisco and HP's telepresence offerings, which come as a complete room, but Vidyo offers significant bang for the buck.

Most legacy videoconferencing systems make use of what's known as a Multipoint Control Unit, a device that combines video, audio, and data streams from multiple endpoints into a single multimedia stream. However, use of an MCU can cause latency and degrade quality beyond what's considered acceptable for a normal phone conversation.

The highest-end systems from HP and Cisco have done away with the MCU, but have prohibitive costs. "We looked at that and said, how can we put price in line with consumer expectations," Vidyo co-founder and CEO Ofer Shapiro, who developed the first IP videoconferencing bridge and gatekeeper as a former executive at Radvision, said in an interview.

Vidyo doesn't require an MCU. Instead, it wraps proprietary technology around video encoded with the new Scalable Video Coding standard, which greatly increases error correction and improves the end product, doing away with the blips and artifacts that are all too common in videoconferences and especially in online video.

SVC adds information about things like bitrate and resolution to encoded videos that can then be used to shape traffic at the packet level via software running on the Vidyo Router. Legacy videoconferencing encoding, in contrast, is simpler, and doesn't enable such error containment.

Vidyo also uses the public Internet as its transport mechanism, bringing the cost of videoconferences down significantly over traditional systems. It recommends at least a 2 Mbps connection for the best conferencing quality. Despite relying on the Internet, Shapiro claims Vidyo's proprietary technology minimizes the effects of latency and packet loss.

The Vidyo system has the ability to encode 720p and 1080p videoconferencing streams, and one HD-220 endpoint device can drive two streams. It can also encode video at up to 60 frames per second (FPS). That compares to 30 FPS with many of its competitors, and in real terms translates into a slightly smoother picture.

There's always someone screaming something along the lines of "this is the year for videoconferencing." However, the industry may finally be nearly ready to bloom. Bandwidth continues to drop in price while video quality continues to rise.

Gartner recently predicted that by 2015, more than 200 million people worldwide will have desktop videoconferencing capabilities at work. With Logitech buying LifeSize and Cisco buying Tandberg, it's clear somebody is buying into the broader market.

Vidyo has been backed by $45 million in venture capital funding from Menlo Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds, Star Ventures, and Rho Ventures. Though Vidyo is a young company, its partners already include Google (which licenses Vidyo technology for use in Google Video), Hitachi, and Teliris. More than 20 regional service providers offer Vidyo teleconferencing as a service, and the company has more than 250 enterprise customers.

Next up, Vidyo may move into the mobile world. At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, Intel demonstrated Vidyo running on a mobile device powered by Intel's forthcoming Moorestown chip.

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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