This Austrian startup and university spinoff has a compelling technology sure to stretch the imagination of display and interaction engineers.
Debuting in the US at the InfoComm show later this month, isiQiri (pronounced eye-see-keer-ee) brings its patented Q-foil technology to bear in the Q-Screen. Based on thin-film optical-sensing technologies coupled with triangulation-oriented software, the Q-foil enables large screen interactivity with laser pointers or user touch.
The company's website says that the Q-Screen is a large-area position sensitive light detector composed of arrays of standard-sized sensors of 85 cm x 61 cm (3.3" x 2.4") that can precisely detect the position and path of lasers pointed at the screen. Also, the screen technology can be integrated with light sources so that objects (like users' fingers) penetrating a plane can be used to create a large screen touch overlay.
In other words, Q-Screen converts normal projected surfaces into multitouch displays. Flexible and light, I see this class of thin film technologies the future of multi-touch technologies: scaling what is essentially 'the iPhone experience' to larger-scale venues and applications. The Q-foil can be mounted on curved or complex surfaces too.
The inspiration link on the website points to a list of expected applications such as gaming, theme parks, museums and the like. My favorite idea is the medical app. Imagine controlling the nano-bot surgery from computer screen zooming in as appropriate. In this application it is easy to loose perspective of where you are. Blow it up and project it on a Q-Screen could make surgical nano-bot control trivial with precision control and no loss of perspective at all.
Cisco's dropping the price of Umi by 20% and cutting the monthly service fee by 75% to $499 and $9.95/month. These price reductions came with an announcement of support for interoperability with Cisco TelePresence rooms and a Mac and PC clients.
The Mac and PC clients are useful so travelers could video home from a hotel and say good night to their spouses and kids while on the road without having to bring a redundant box and camera with them. The interoperability with TelePresence rooms is a little too much. Not many consumers want to do a telepresence session with their local GE or Cisco or Bank of America executive.
This is a stupid move and will only result in further margin erosion for the company. Many enterprises with telepresence at home plans will consider expanding their telepresence-at-home offering to include this little device and service, which of course will sell for less in volume. Hardly a consumer application. In fact, this move could cannibalize sales of home office video solutions which have higher priced and higher margins.
Even still, the company totally misunderstood the consumer sensitivity points around price/value. Of course, if they had subscribed to our Consumer subscription service, they'd be able to make much more intelligent decisions. Sigh...
Nevertheless, this simply proves that Cisco still doesn't get it when it comes to consumer video communications. They have technology they are rushing to commoditize, even when common sense dictates that there is no way for Cisco or Cisco shareholders to win at this.
The PC video conferencing company, Avistar provided a recent update on their latest announcement of support for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), the classic method for delivering PC-class of services to many users without the cost or hassle of issuing each user a PC. VDI avoids assigning each user a Windows license or providing a hard drive. In VDI there is still a need for mouse, keyboard, monitor and a low-cost device at the terminal that provides the high speed networking of the presentation aspects of the application running on the PC. Similar to the timeshare and mini-computing environments of the past decades, a central server supports many users by providing local presentation and data input & control with high speed networking allowing the applications to do their computing centrally.
Now, with the help of the B990, a new HD camera from the PC camera people, Logitech, Avistar customers can exploit the on-camera H.264 encoding and leverage the Avistar C3 Integrator software on the server for decoding to deliver a two-way, HD-grade desktop video conferencing application right on the VDI terminal. In their press release, Avistar noted that the VDI solution is optimized for HP thin client devices and Citrix virtual PC system software.
This first-of-its-kind Video on VDI solution enables a new, previously unaddressable segment of the market with realtime two-way PC video communications. It extends Avistar's enterprise portfolio directly into large enterprise scenarios where VDI systems are the security and maintenance platform of choice in shared computing spaces such on the floor of massive aircraft assembly production facilities, hospital environments and government offices.
Well, the rumors are flying that Cisco's statement that they'll be debuting a major new consumer product in October means home telepresence at $500/unit.
The pundits point out that the Cisco unit responsible for the Flip video camera is the likely starting point of the product. My concern is three-fold:
a. an October announcement is likely to miss the critical consumer Thanksgiving - Christmas shopping period, or worse starve or stuff the consumer channel with product they can't get enough of or will get too much of. Not a good sign for profit-conscious shareholders.
b. $500 is way too high a price. Our research (conducted privately) says the optimal price ought to be in the sub-$200 range. Frankly, I can get a touch-screen, multi-function iPad for $500, which is a much better value than a single purpose expensive 'phone equivalent' to hang out in my living room, collecting dust with my VHS player and CD cartridge player.
c. Cisco is out of its league. Trying to compete in consumer electronics with Sony, Panasonic and LG is fraught with disappointment, peril and a product-market discipline that is so foreign to Cisco's culture that I'm sure that Cisco doesn't have right. Flip doesn't have it right either. They've been so focused on the camera experience that they got lucky with the initial Flip design, but are being swamped by the Japanese and Korean competitors.
Leveraging the coolness of a tablet computer, Avaya's new Personal Video Conferencing Device is a 9" Google Android tablet with 3 USBs, WiFi and Gb Ethernet. A front facing HD 720p video camera is capable of 30 fps transmission and the touch screen can support 720p 30fps presentation. It comes with a nice pullout u-shaped stand for desktop/tabletop stability, freeing up hands for doodling, note taking or presentation support.
The newly shipping device also sports a new UI called Avaya Flare, shown at left which uses a rolodex metaphor to manage the directory (built from the enterprise directory, email server, LinkedIn or FaceBook account (if enabled) or other social network service). Context sensitive elements like history and contact choices are shown in the rolodex feature at left. Availability to communicate in the various services (video, telephone, IM) are shown adjacent to your photo on the right hand side.
Waving the finger through the rolodex at right spins the wheel and lets you see the names and faces of the people in the directory. You simply tap on them with your finger and drag them to the spotlight in the center. You can choose the media of communication with a tap of the icon below the center spotlight. Incoming calls present new dialog boxes and holding communications are shown in the adjacent spotlights to the left and right of the center stage. Dragging the spotlights from the sides/back to the front space directs your participation. You are speaking/IM/seeing only the session in the center.
Avaya hopes to make the user experience 'Avaya Flare' available on other devices and OSes (Dr Alan Baratz did the demos and showed the Flare running on an iPad) and will deliver that over time.
Avaya also announced room-based video conferencing products, but did not speak about them. The company is particularly excited about the tablet. They are not OEMed from PolyCom, a current resale partner of Avaya. From a distance, they looked like LifeSize codecs and cameras, but I couldn't be sure and can't find definitive information on the website.
There was no discussion of the firewall-traversal techniques available. Customers with Avaya Aura (the über-SIP registry) can plug it in and it will work, but it is unclear how Avaya expects to handle what I think is a popular cross-network use case involving taking the tablet home and doing a video call from the den for overseas business needs.
The product is shipping today.
The price however, is a VERY big disappointment. MRSP is listed at US$3,750.00, something like 5x higher than the consumer equivalent. Not the best way to disrupt an emerging market. Avaya says this is a 50% discount to comparable devices (what? the Cisco Cius?), but business people are also consumers and know that the iPad is cool and tons cheaper. I bet most executives in this economic climate would spring $500 for an iPad, but not $3750 for this device. Sorry, Avaya, I suspect once you get out of the ivory tower, you'll see lots of devices of similar capabilities and features for $1000. Your value add is the software and network infrastructure, no?
I think the issue that Avaya has here is that it also sells dozens of IP and digital phone models that will also be somehow enhanced to support Flare and video? Instead of disrupting the IP phone market, this device is meant to stimulate it. How exactly, remains to be seen. Nevertheless, this device is an executive toy and therefore will under-deliver on Avaya's promise that it will change collaboration. Not at that price point. It won't.