Lifesize Room in Action

Even with videoconferencing…. the life of a blogger can get lonely.

So when my friend Phil at Quagga invited me to attend the “Lifesize Room in Action” meeting in Folsom, CA….I jumped at the chance.

As I arrived I met old friends (some who go way back in videconferencing) and new people (Adam, Spring, and Susan from Lifesize and some potential customers).

The value of meeting live was re-introduced to this cloistered, rapidly expanding, blogger and the energy was invigorating.  Hmmmm, Sheila is right…the room is here to stay.  🙂  Life needs balance.

Adam (Lifesize), Stan (my boss from ESnet), Phil (Quagga)
Adam (Lifesize), Stan (my boss from ESnet), Phil (Quagga)
Spring from Lifesize
Spring from Lifesize
Susan from Lifesize
Susan from Lifesize

TelBitConsulting’s Unofficial History of Lifesize

Those who are in this industry know Lifesize, but, for those new to videoconferencing here is a quick update.

Lifesize has been selling products since 2005 (somehow it seems longer than that). Adam tells us that they are in their 2nd generation of products and that they design their own chips for the codecs.

One thing Adam did not mention in the meeting, but, I will here:  Lifesize was the first to introduce High Definition for videoconferencing (even I was skeptical when they did this) and now the industry is totally different because of this. Very cool.

Lifesize has (according to Adam) passed Sony as the #3 vendor in this space (see my jargon is intact) behind Polycom and Tandberg (not sure of the order, but, I think Polycom is #1 still).

Lifesize Product Range

It was interesting to learn that Lifesize now spans a full range of products.  From the desktop to infrastructure.

Among the products are a desktop version of the Radvision Scopia (see my review), the Express for offices or small rooms, Team 200 for the workgroup, Room 200 for conference rooms, classrooms, etc, and Conference 200 which is Lifesize’s version of a “Telepresence” room.

There is an stand-alone MCU, a gateway, Firewall and NAT transversal product, ISDN to IP connectivity, a gatekeeper, and a video management system.  Visit the Lifesize web site for a lot more detailed information.

Room 200 Features

As the Room in Action meeting progressed we were introduced to it’s features.

Here is a quick list with some pics and a video (Oscars here we come!) to underscore what we saw:

The Room 200 consists of the codec (Figure 1), an HD camera (Figure 2), a simplified remote control (Figure 3), and a table top speaker / mic combination (Figure 4).  You need to provide your own monitor.

Figure 1:  Room 200 Codec (Coder / Decoder)
Figure 1: Room 200 Codec (Coder / Decoder)
Figure 2:  HD Camera
Figure 2: HD Camera
Figure 3:  Remote Control
Figure 3: Remote Control
Figure 4: Mic / Speaker Pod
Figure 4: Mic / Speaker Pod

Max resolution of the Room 200 codec is 1080p high definition at 60 frames per second.  It can also work at 720p at 768 kbps which means as soon as I upgrade my DSL line, just a little, you will be able to see me in HD (NOT something you should want to do by the way….ugly being the definitive word).

The codec includes a 6 way multipoint capability.  The MCU transcodes signals so any endpoint can connect and, yes, it now supports H.261 as the baseline fallback connection.  Figure 5 show us in a 4 way call.

Figure 5:  Four-Way Call (using embedded multipoint)
Figure 5: Four-Way Call (using embedded multipoint)

Data sharing follows the H.239 standards.  Figure 6 shows the Room 200 features as shown to us by Susan from Austin, TX.

Figure 6: H.239 Data sharing
Figure 6: H.239 Data sharing

For the famous movie director (me?) in the field, the Room 200 codec supports dual streams of 720p HD.  This means that the director can show the movie (in HD) on one screen and him or herself on the other screen, again in HD.

The following video clip shows an HD movie being sent to use from Susan’s location.  Note that only one monitor was available.  The quality, live, was outstanding and the downstream BW was about 2 Mbps using the Public Internet (the hidden meaning is that this call is working without any QoS (quality of service) guarantees.

You can manage the Room 200 via the web.  There is https support with login and password protection. (Thanks  Stan for asking these questions!).

It works on the Linux OS and upgrades can be done via your computer (again…thanks Stan!).

You can pull up call statistics (Figure 7) and each unit has a report to help determine the cause of crashes.

Figure 7: Call Statistics
Figure 7: Call Statistics

Summary

There is a lot to be said about the quality of a Lifesize HD system.  I remember back in the day when we thought it was special to be able to connect a VCR to our ancient videoconferencing systems and see low resolution movies via a video call.  That was quite amazing at the time….BUT, what we saw today was light-years ahead of that.

Lifesize would be more than happy to give you pricing information but my understanding is that the Room 200 goes for about $17,000 and their full Telepresence room costs only about $50,000.   The Express runs about $5,000 for full 720p high definition.  If I had the extra (hmmmm, any) money, I’d definitely consider plopping an Express in my home office….

I had forgotten how much fun it was to go to meetings like this with Stan…

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