Earlier this week, I blogged about some of the gadgets I’ve been using whilst I’ve been learning about Exchange Unified Messaging and Office Communciations Server (OCS) 2007 and today I got to experience one of Microsoft’s showpiece web conferencing devices – the RoundTable.
Basically, it looks like a normal conference phone, but with a 30cm pole at the top of which are mounted a number of mirrors reflecting a 360-degree view from the room back onto cameras.
This means that Live meeting can display a panoramic view of the room and (this is the really cool part), the RoundTable recognises who is speaking and displays the appropriate part of the image. It really has to be seen to be believed – so here’s a screen grab from the PC that had the RoundTable connected, showing the panoramic view, the currently selected view (with picture in picture from the remote caller’s webcam). Other LiveMeeting content could also be shown (e.g. a presentation, or a shared desktop), but the point here is the camera.
(Incidentally, the guy in the blue shirt is Peter O’Dowd – an Exchange and OCS MVP whose claim to fame includes playing guitar under the pseudonym of Pete Petrol for the punk band Spizzenergi, who were most famous for the song where is Captain Kirk?)
Some might feel that the RoundTable is a solution looking for a problem but I’ve been dialled into enough conference calls where I haven’t a clue who is speaking because as soon as there are more than three people on the conference it becomes unclear who is speaking at any one moment.
With the RoundTable and Live Meeting, remote attendees can have their individual webcams running and people back in the office meeting room can use the RoundTable to project an image of whoever is speaking at that time. Or multiple RoundTables can be used for conferences between multiple groups of people.
I’m sure that Cisco, Polycom and the others who have been doing this stuff for years have devices that are just as exciting but this really rocks.