Desktop Videoconferencing Essay, Research Paper
Desktop Videoconferencing is gaining acceptance as a key telecommunications technology in the work place all around the world. Desktop Videoconferencing makes communication far more effective when its impossible for people to meet in person. Not only do people get a feel of what takes place in a face to face meeting but they also get to hear what others are saying and their reactions as well when using Desktop Videoconferencing technology. And unlike a telephone conference calls, Desktop Videoconferencing enables users to dramatize presentations with visual aids, such as whiteboarding, as well as viewing colorful graphs, charts and spreadsheets.
By combining Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) technology and individual PCs, people can meet “face-to-face” without leaving their offices. It’s a unique way to reduce costly and time-consuming travel. It also allows employees to meet “face-to-face” over a desktop PC and share and review documents with colleagues, clients or vendors. You can hold a Desktop Videoconference whenever the need arises, without the time and expense of traveling-or even leaving your desk because it’s just like being there in person. Desktop Videoconferencing in no way takes the place of face to face, but it does offer the convenience of a different means of communication.
Videoconferencing is a type of conferencing in which video cameras and microphones capture sight and sound for transmission over a communications network. Videoconferencing makes it possible to conduct meetings with participation of groups who are hundreds and thousands of miles apart (Senn, 1998).
As Joseph Jesson an information technology consultant at Amoco in Chicago put it the notion of Desktop Videoconferencing was highlighted at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York. It is now 1999 and the promises of upgraded desktop videoconferencing are still on the rise. In the year of 2000 there will still be promises of desktop videoconferencing upgrades as it has been with computers. As Videoconferencing has made it to Desktop Videoconferencing it has continued to improve and to grow slowly but surely. Slowly because Videoconferencing has been used in a large conference room sized environment over the past decade and the cost were outrageous, putting a damper in its growth rate.
The failure of early videoconferencing systems was not not only technological or economic in nature, but a failure to understand and to take into account the sociological and psychological factors involved in the deployment and diffusion of this technology. The pioneers in the field had conceptualized videoconferencing as a direct replacement for face-to-face meetings or encounters (Egido, 1988,16). In terms of the corporate bottom line it was anticipated that videoconferencing could replace to some extent both long distance travel and commuter travel. The result would be a direct saving of time, money and energy. Reality, however, was more complex than this simple equation could explain. The recognition of the importance of factors such as corporate culture, the nature of the work group, and work practices was in its infancy. In the 1990s the incorporation of sociological and psychological perspectives in the development and deployment of new technologies is still limited, but there are examples of research and product development sites where these concepts are taken seriously. Xerox Corporation, Ontario Telepresence Project is one of those sites that is taking it serious encounters (Egido, 1988,16).
The first wave of videoconferencing technologies in the 1960s and 1970s did not penetrate the marketplace to any degree. In the 1990s we are experiencing the second wave of interest in video communication technologies. We have suggested that the reasons for failure in the 1960s and 1970s were a combination of social, economic, psychological and technological factors. Overly simplistic assumptions about the cost saving advantages of the technology and the focus on video as a means to replace face-to-face communication led to disappointment among early adopters. In the 1990s, the field has changed radically. Technical capabilities and capacities, in terms of hardware, software and communication networks far surpass the first wave systems. In addition, the economic realities of the 1990s – such as the extended recession and the globalization of the economy – are driving a trend to organizational redesign and re-engineering (Masayo, 1997). While these changes are not fully understood, there is growing recognition that there is a strong relationship between successful deployment of technology and knowledge of the context into which it is being deployed. It is not longer enough to work harder, we must also work smarter. Designers of videoconferencing systems today are advised to learn from the experiences of the first wave encounters (Egido, 1988,16).
Success in the 1990s is unlikely to reside in solutions that are purely technical. A complete understanding of the process of human interaction, a respect for the cognitive and social skills of the users, an awareness of the dynamics of organizations, and the characteristics of the work force must all be accommodated if we are to ride the second wave of innovation to successful adoption in the 1990s encounters (Egido, 1988,16).
As with Desktop Videoconferencing in general, we look at videoconferencing interconnected on an individual desktop computer which allows video cameras and microphones to capture sight and sound of participants to be transmitted over a network. Desktop Videoconferencing is used to place calls to other Desktop Videoconferencing systems and then to see a video image of the person on the other end of the Desktop Videoconferencing system.
Desktop Videoconferencing can be done with two or more people and or computers. In the Desktop Videoconferencing arena the method of working with one another is called collaborating. This is one good reason to have Desktop Videoconferencing because it allows people to work together regardless of distance. Desktop Videoconferencing can also provide shared software in the process. This type of videoconferencing is where either person could control the computer and edit documents if either person opens a word-processing document. Most businesses use Desktop Videoconferencing because it allows employees to work on projects and have one on one or group meetings without having to fly to one location to have meetings (Grace, 1995). Many companies are finding Desktop Videoconferencing to save a lot of money. It also cuts down on relocation rather than moving expertise from one location to another. Desktop Videoconferencing is not only used in the business place but it is also used in group or individual educational needs. Most Colleges and Universities use desktop videoconferencing to allow instructors and students to have classes from a distance and in many instances I have seen them being used to provide information for recruitment purposes. Another area I have seen Desktop Videoconferencing being used is in the real estate market. When I put my home up for sale the realtor used his Desktop Videoconferencing system to input information on my home that will allow information to be exchanged and to allow convenience in closing sales.
The Desktop Videoconferencing process involves a computer at each end of the communication lines. You need a video camera to get video into the computer. The computer tansmits in digital information only. Compact discs and computer disks are examples of digital media. VCR tapes and audio tapes are analog. You should be able to connect a camera to your computer’s serial parallel and Universal Serial Bus ports depending on the type of digital camera you have. I have a Panasonic digital camera and it is connected to my serial port. Your camera should meet your computer requirements before you can operate in properly. Microphone and speakers will be a must if you want to hear. When conferencing with someone the computers should understand the same coder/decoder method. A good network connection is needed to send images to another computer. There are four different network connections, Plain Old Telephone Service(POTS), Integrated Services Digital Network(ISDN), Ethernet, and Dedicated video lines. Each of these network connections have different requirements. POTS need a telephone connection like a modem. ISDN is a digital phone with a high bandwidth. In 1995 the telephone network in the United States was an analog system that carried only one voice, computer or fax exchange at a time. With ISDN three separate exchanges at the same time through one line can be achieved, it is not necessary to have a separate line for each one.
You can send a file to someone while you are talking on the phone, and seeing their live picture on a video screen (Piedmo, 1995). Bandwidth is the amount of information that can be sent across a network in a second. Ethernet is another network connection and it is has a higher bandwidth than ISDN. Dedicated video lines are special cables used exclusively for videoconferencing. Desktop Videoconferencing also requires special software like Microsoft’s NetMeeting, White Pine’s CU-SeeMe to name a couple (Masayo,1997).
There are many types of Desktop Videoconferencing products to include Picture Tel, Pro Share, Erish, CU-See Me. Some of the vendors are Picture Tel Corp, Intel Corp, Microsoft Corp, White Pine Software Inc. Each Desktop Videoconferencing system has different requirements to run them properly. There are also different characteristics in each of these Desktop Videoconferencing systems.
PictureTel is a multipoint videoconferencing system that is cost effective and flexible when it comes to Internet Protocol based conferencing and collaboration solution. Multipoint videoconferencing is a communication between more than two computers and participants with a multipoint bridge. A Multiple Conference Unit assembles several video streams into a single conference. If you purchase Multiple Conference Unit it can cost $80,000 dollars and up. Multiple Conference Units can be access by a service provider. Users would usually pay a communications company for the multipoint bridge service by setting up an account with the telecommunications carrier The carrier verifies that each system interfaces properly with the carrier’s system. Each user schedules a time in which all participants will meet and provide that information to the carrier. The carrier interns provide each site with a specific video number to call. Each participant dials the video number and the Multipoint Conference Unit merges the ISDN connections into the mulitipoint conference where the face and voice of the person is seen (Davis, 1998). The Picture Tel allows organizations to conference through intranets, extanets, and internet. Any users who have H.323 based conferencing can call and attend multiple meetings in conference rooms when time or distance prohibits face to face meetings, just as long as the attendees use H.323 based conferencing. It also allows ease in managing and reserving virtual conference rooms. Multipoint videoconferencing allows companies to consolidate their conferencing costs on a single network lowering their overall cost of transmission (DT-5/Desktop Videoconferencing Products. on-line).
The Intel ProShare Video System offers superb video, audio and data collaboration at a great price. Intel ProShare is easy to install and use, the Intel ProShare Video System. It includes everything you need for business quality video conferencing. Intel ProShare is also designed to be installed in your PC in less than 30 minutes. Picture Tel Desktop Videoconferencing system also offers a open collaborative working environment. In fact the Live 2000 system has a fully functional based videoconferencing and application sharing system that can conduct Videoconferencing anywhere in the world as long as the user has a PC running Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows NT and users have any H.320 compliant videoconferencing system. The Live 2000 system also allows users to enhance teamwork by working together on their reports and projects as if they were face to face with the click of the mouse. (Intel ProShare(tm) Industry-Specific Applications. on-line).
CU-SeeMe – pronounced ’see you see me’ – allows you to see, hear, and speak with others. You can have a one-on-one conversation with someone running the CU-SeeMe client software, which is currently available for Macintosh and Windows. You can have a one-to-many conference by directing your CU-SeeMe client software to connect with a computer running the CU-SeeMe reflector software, currently available for UNIX. There are many public reflector sites to which you can connect. CU-SeeMe was designed and implemented to provide “desktop videoconferencing” to people sharing a high-speed network, such as a campus-wide or company-wide 10 megabit/second Ethernet local area network. Almost immediately after its public release CU-SeeMe was taken on a digital joy-ride in directions its creators never imagined. Newcomers to the Internet, old-timers, students, telecommuters, educators, and artists began to use CU-SeeMe for their work, their play, and their artistic creations. And we didn’t have high-speed networks; those who could afford it used the state-of-the-art 14.4 kbps of the day. CU-SeeMe was created at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, USA
These are the most simple and affordable business Videoconferencing systems. A reasonably quality Desktop Videoconferencing systems can cost approximately $1,500 and below. These prices are dropping drastically. Still White Pine Software’s CU-See Me and Microsoft’s NetMeeting are among the least expensive. They are least expensive because they have poor video and audio capabilities. On the other hand they have good application sharing results. PicturePhone Direct is one of the worlds largest supplier of videoconferencing products and accessories (Hines, 1995).
Desktop Videoconferencing has both positive and negative features. Some of the problems are high cost, availability of ISDN lines and poor performance. (Waurzyniak, 1995)
Desktop Videoconferencing overall has had lukewarm acceptance, in part because of internal management changes and delays primarily related to ISDN installation. Having Desktop Videoconferencing integrated into the work process would be a great plus for any company. I found through reasearch that the Eris unit has good portability functions.
There are many ways to communicate through Desktop Videoconferencing. Desktop conferencing without video is often called data conferencing. Data conferencing is the transmission of voice and data from a personal computer.
This can be achieved over Plain Old Telephone Service or Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). Many companies have debated on whether the video portion of Desktop Videoconferencing was necessary or whether it is a waste of money. Desktop Videoconferencing will never take the place of face to face because there is nothing that can compare to face to face. But Desktop Videoconferencing can get you as close as possible.
Masayo Miyake, the managing director for construction and installation, according to the November 22, 1997 issue of Electronics, believed that “video phones will be used more to transmit drawings, documents, and pictures of products than for face to face conversation”. Maybe this is because the Japanese honor face to face meetings and is now beginning to accept all forms of videoconferencing.(Miyake, 1997)
When you purchase desktop conferencing software, it will include virtual meeting and collaborative tools like whiteboarding, application sharing and document conferencing. Application sharing allows two or more Desktop Videoconferencing users to collaborate on powerpoint presentations, spreadsheets, graphic designs and other software run by one computer. All users can use their keyboard and mouse to control sharing the application. Document conferencing allows two or more Desktop Videoconferencing users simultaneously write and edit documents. This is the same function that takes place at a face to face meeting and it takes the place of passing out documents for review. Document conferencing is achieved by cutting and pasting the document onto the whiteboard from an application. Whiteboard allows Desktop Videoconferencing users to create shared workspace similar to a whiteboard. When one user highlights a portion of text with a infrared pen it appears on the other users computer screen (Grace. 1995).
There are three capabilities of Desktop Videoconferencing. They are video, audio and collaboration. According to Barry Fishman, who runs the Covis project at Northwestern University, “In two thirds of instances that we want to use conferencing, video is irrelevant. Audio on the other hand is important to us. Screen sharing is also important to us”. (Fishman, 1997)
Frank Casanova, Director of the Apple Computer Advanced Technology Group Exploratory Products Laboratory said, “that there was little interest in Desktop Videoconferencing until reasonable bandwidth became more available. The bandwidth and capability to conduct screen to screen, real time collaboration with audio had been available for many years before personal videoconferencing. If you ask people which of the videoconferencing capabilities they would give up, the answer is almost always video”. (Casanova, 1997)
Ellen Grace Henson, Ambassador of Visual Communications for Silicon Graphics, agrees that real time video usually takes a back seat to screen to screen collaboration. Part of the reason Henson gives is that video demands more CPU processing power and network bandwidth than other conferencing capabilities. He also believes that as quality of video increases and the cost of processing and transmission goes down, the value of video increase.
Bob Leader of SAP Software is convinced that effective collaboration requires face to face interaction. “He states that being able to see facial expressions, body language makes a real difference”. (Leader, 1997). In an Op-ed column in the January 15, 1996 New York Times, writer Rose Moss made a point that physical settings are important to productivity and happiness as with face to face on video.
In an Andersen Worldwide Study at the Anderson Worldwide Professional Development Center in St. Charles, Illinois. Half of the participants used Intel Pro Share with video,and the other half used Pro Share without video. The participants were unaware that there were groups. The study revealed that 75% of those in the video group and 65% of those in the non video group said they would prefer video. Only 33% of the video group reported that the ability to see the other person enhanced communication.
Many big time companies believe that conferencing and application sharing with audio conferencing were the number one features in Desktop Videoconferencing. Intel still decided to spring out with a Videoconferencing product when it prevailed in making the Pro Share video system. Not only that, Intel wanted to keep its users who can’t part from the traditional way of document conferencing, whiteboarding and application sharing capabilities so they produced a non-video version of Pro Share. Nevertheless, Desktop Videoconferencing with or without video allows collaborators to hold meetings desk to desk, building to building, city to city and even country to country. To top it off if you really want to get technical, Desktop Videoconferencing will even allow its users to communicate Earth to Space through its unique satellite technology. If that s not growth then what is.(Piedmo, 1995)
Until recently, most videoconferencing was done with room videoconferencing systems, which use very sophisticated and expensive equipment to provide high-quality sound and video. Now days Desktop Videoconferencing is less expensive and can be put to use on your personal computer. Desktop Videoconferencing can never take the place of face to face communications but it does come close.