Videoconferencing's Virtual Room - InformationWeek

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Videoconferencing's Virtual Room

Duke University's Fuqua School of Business uses its 'telepresence' system to provide an ultrahigh-speed link between campuses in Durham, N.C., and Frankfurt, Germany.

Will the phrase "You had to be there" become obsolete? Duke University's Fuqua School of Business is taking videoconferencing where it hasn't been, using Internet2 networking technology. The school's "telepresence" system provides an ultrahigh-speed link between the university's Durham, N.C., and Frankfurt, Germany, campuses. Duke has created a virtual conference room split between the two locations.

Conference rooms on both campuses have been outfitted with multiple hidden cameras and video screens 12 feet across. The result is a conference room in Durham that seems to extend into a conference room in Frankfurt, and vice versa, says Nevin Fouts, Fuqua's associate dean for IT.

The high-quality system provides life-size images and lets people make eye contact. The jerkiness associated with most videoconferencing systems is gone, Fouts says. "Sometimes, they leave the window open in the Frankfurt room," he says. "You can stick your head in the room in Durham and hear the traffic of downtown Frankfurt. It's kind of weird."

Internet2 is a consortium of 190 universities working with the private sector and government agencies to leverage networking technologies to create the next generation of the Internet. Internet2 backers are seeking speeds three times faster than today's Internet. Fuqua's system uses two 2.5-Gbps connections through Internet2, DFN (Internet2's German equivalent), and the GEANT European research network. Nortel Networks Corp. is one of the vendors involved.

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