Thirty-two Screen Telepresence Interop Call Successful
UW-Madison CTS 3200, photo by David Devereaux-Weber
Here at Internet2 we've been working hard putting the pieces together for our telepresence interoperability service. A few days ago, we had our first big test, maxing out our current capacity at thirty-two screens. I'm pleased to say that it was a great experience. We had a wide variety of endpoints connected from various vendors, including Cisco TelePresence single and multiscreen systems, legacy Tandberg high definition systems, Polycom high def and standard def systems, Lifesize systems, and even desktop clients including Cisco Movi and Vidyo Desktop.
The way that multipoint is accomplished while maintaining the immersive experience is interesting. On single screen systems, the active speaker gets the entire screen, while other sites are placed in a "filmstrip" along the bottom. This seems to max out at nine little boxes, making a total of ten sites on the screen at a time. When there are more than ten sites connected, the ten most recent speakers are displayed. It's important to note that the filmstrip is overlayed on top of the main image, such that the active speaker is not squished or cropped, although the bottom part of their image can be obscured. This is not an issue when cameras are positioned correctly, but if people are too low in the frame is can create a "Kilroy" effect. On multiscreen systems, the filmstrip can spread across all three displays, creating a maximum of (I think) thirty total screens viewable at a time. It's also important to note that three-screen systems appear contiguously in the filmstrip.
Finally, we were pleased to see that content sharing worked seamlessly across all of the systems - our colleague David Devereaux-Weber from UW-Madison shared content from his CTS 3200 room, and it was viewable on the other H.323 and SIP endpoints. And then just for an added twist, Dave tried sharing content using the video output on his iPad2 - which also worked.
So what didn't work? Well, as you may be aware, cascading between multiple Cisco TelePresence Servers is not currently supported by Cisco. Being a group of video geeks, we couldn't let it go at that, and we had to try it out for ourselves. So, Jamie Poindexter from UW-Extension cascaded her Cisco TelePresence Server to ours. On the plus side, it did connect, and the magic smoke did not come out. However, the result was not usable - multiple continuous presence boxes in no particular order, many just black screens. So, our curiosity was fulfilled, and we confirmed that the best way to achieve large calls today is to build a critical mass of telepresence server blades in a centralized chassis.
In conclusion - it was a great test, and was very exciting to see high quality interoperability in action on a large scale.
Polycom HDX 8000, Internet2
Cisco TelePresence Movi in interop call
Vidyo Desktop in interop call with content