The demo on October 6 was the first immersive telepresence demo at Internet2. Note that Cisco showed their CTS 1000 telepresence system at the previous Internet2 conference; however, this system has only one screen, and feels more like an HD video conferencing system than an immersive telepresence system. Also, the Cisco demo was on stage and far away from viewers while the TPX demo was available for everyone at the conference to experience.
The following multi-codec systems participated in the telepresence interoperability demo:- Polycom TPX HD 306 three-screen system in Chula Vista Room, Hyatt Regency Hotel, - Polycom TPX HD 306 three-screen system located in Andover, Massachusetts, - LifeSize Room 100 three-screen system located at OARnet in Columbus, Ohio, - Polycom RPX 200 at iFormata in Dayton, Ohio- Polycom RPX 400 at IBM Research in Armonk, NY - Tandberg T3 three-screen system located in Lisbon, Portugal (the afternoon demos were too late for Rui and Bill connected a T3 system in New York instead)
The systems were connected either to the Polycom RMX 2000 located at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, or to the Tandberg Telepresence Server at IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, NY.
As for the setup in Chula Vista, TPX comes with 6 chairs, and there were additional 30 chairs building several rows behind the system. There was enough space for people to stand in the back of the room. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/20518315@N00/4014401487/)
I can only share my experience sitting in the TPX system in the Chula Vista Room. I am sure other participants in the demo have experienced it a little differently. I was tweeting on the step-by-step progress throughout the demos.
The final test plan included both continuous presence scenarios and voice switching scenarios. Voice switching is a mechanism widely used in video conferencing; the conference server detects who speaks, waits for 2-3 seconds to make sure it is not just noise or a brief comment, and then starts distributing video from that site to all other sites. The twist - when telepresence systems are involved - is that not only one but all 2, 3, or 4 screens that belong to the ‘speaking’ site must be distributed to all other sites. Voice switched tests worked very well; sites were appearing as expected.
Continuous presence – also technology used in video conferencing – allows the conference server to build customized screen layouts for each site. The layout can be manipulated by management applications, e.g. RMX Manager and MLA manipulate the layouts in RMX 2000. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/20518315@N00/4014401683/)
TPX performed flawlessly. On October 5, most calls were at 2Mbps per screen due to some bottlenecks when crossing networks. This issue was later resolved and on October 6 TPX connected at 4Mbps per screen (total of 12 Mbps). TPX was using the new Polycom EagleEye 1080 HD cameras that support 1080p @30fps and 720p @60fps. We used 720p@ 60fps which provides additional motion smoothness.
About quality: The quality of multipoint telepresence calls on RMX 2000 was excellent. A video recorded in Chula Vista is posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpfNmJtAtVg. In few test cases, we connected the TPX systems directly to TTPS, and the quality decreased noticeably.
About reliability: In addition to the failure during the first test (described in Part 5), TTPS failed during the morning demo on October 6 (I was tweeting throughout the demo and have the exact time documented here http://twitter.com/StefanKara/status/4633989195). RMX 2000 performed flawlessly.
About layouts: Since TTPS is advertised as a customized solution for multipoint telepresence, I expected that it will handle telepresence layouts exceptionally well. Throughout the demos, Robbie Nobel used the MLA application to control RMX 2000 while Bill Rippon controlled TTPS. In summation, RMX 2000 handled telepresence layouts better than TTPS. The video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpfNmJtAtVg shows a layout created by RMX 2000 – T3 system is connected to RMX through TTPS. In comparison, when the telepresence systems were connected directly to TTPS, even the best layout was a patchwork covering small portion of the TPX screens. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/20518315@N00/4014401367/) I understand that due to the built-in automation in TTPS, the user has limited capability to influence the layouts. While MLA includes layout automation, it does allow the user to modify layouts and select the best layout for the conference.
About capacity: TTPS is 16-port box and each codec takes a port, so it can connect maximum five 3-screen systems or four 4-screen systems. Bill therefore could not connect all available systems on TTPS – the server just ran out of ports. In comparison, RMX 2000 had 160 resources and each HD connection took 4 resources, so that RMX 2000 could connect maximum of 40 HD codecs, i.e., thirteen 3-screen systems or ten 4-screen systems. RMX therefore never ran out of capacity during the demo.
The morning and lunch interoperability demos were recorded on a Polycom RSS 2000 recorder @ IP address 188.8.131.52.
We ran three interoperability demos during the morning, lunch, and afternoon conference breaks. In addition, we managed to squeeze in two additional demos that highlighted topics relevant to Internet2 and the education community. In the first one, we connected the TPX Chula Vista to the Polycom RPX 218 system at Georgetown University in Doha, Qatar on the Arabian Peninsula, and had a very invigorating discussion about the way Georgetown uses telepresence technology for teaching and learning. John Chapman from the Georgetown University and Ardoth Hassler from the National Science Foundation joined us in the Chula Vista room. If you are interested in that topic, check out the joint Georgetown-Polycom presentation at the spring’09 Interent2 conference http://events.internet2.edu/2009/spring-mm/sessionDetails.cfm?session=10000467&event=909. The discussion later went into using telepresence technology for grant proposal review panels.
Another interesting demo was meeting Scott Stevens from Juniper Networks over telepresence and discussing with him how Juniper’s policy management engine interacts with Polycom video infrastructure to provide high-quality of experience for telepresence.
Throughout all interoperability and other demos, the Interent2 network performed flawlessly – we did not notice any packet loss and jitter was very low.
Stay tuned for Part 8 with summary of the test and demo results … http://videonetworker.blogspot.com/2009/10/part-8-telepresence-interoperability-is.html