With the release of the IX5000 in November of 2014, it made sense to do a compare and contrast of it versus its nearest competitor, Polycom’s Immersive Studio. These will be the go-to immersive telepresence room systems for 2015 from the two biggest players in video conferencing.
I’ve provided my initial thoughts on the IX5000 here, and the Immersive Studio here.
|Cisco: 3~70” 1080p||Polycom: 3~84” 4k with a 55” (55”?) data display that sits a mile away.|
|I don’t know if Cisco is planning on utilizing the small table panels for data or just control. Other than that, they’re using the 70” for data and removing participants from the meeting (because you can’t see them when data is filling up the screen). Sitting close to 70” 1080p screens may not be the best thing. Both products lose points however for being three-screen systems.|
Polycom wins due to a dedicated data display and data in the table, maintaining the immersive meeting – unless they throw data up on the video screen then forget it. Of course, there’s no way you’re seeing any content on a 55” display if you’re in the back row.
|Cisco: 3~4k camera heads in one enclosure above the middle screen||Polycom: 3~1080p camera heads in one enclosure, placed in front of the middle screen right in the chest of a person.|
Cisco wins due to over capture and the ability to digitally manipulate some things. If my review gave negative points, Polycom would get one for putting the camera in the middle of someone’s chest.
|Cisco: 8’H x 19’W x 13’-8” D (six seat version)||Polycom: Appears to be roughly 8’H x 24’W x 18’D (nine seat version)|
|Both companies are touting limited room remediation which is ridiculous. Cisco’s is much friendlier than Polycom, but I’m still betting they are going to need room remediation in many instances. Cisco’s product may meet various seismic requirements, while Polycom’s definitely will not as a standalone product.|
Cisco wins here due to smaller footprint and easier installation/remediation.
|Cisco: Absolutely Not||Polycom: Yes, but Most Likely Ineffective|
|Polycom’s table is over 18’-6” wide. For reference, go sit that far away from a friend but don’t face him and have (or try to have) a conversation. Cisco’s continued negligence toward being able to have a local meeting in their flagship product baffles me. Negating the importance of making rooms multipurpose will continue to hamper sales.|
|Can You Stand Up?|
|Cisco: Yes With a Caveat||Polycom: Yes|
|Cisco now has a push button digital vertical pan to allow stand up capture. How often this will be used is anyone’s guess. Polycom remembered that people stand up in meetings and accommodated. This “feature” was in the RPX, then eliminated in the OTX. Now it’s back.|
|Cisco: 6 or 18 With Back Row||Polycom: 9 or 21 With Back Row|
|I guess the nod goes to Cisco because in the Immersive Studio the person in the first seat is so ridiculously far away from the person in the ninth seat that it’s impossible for them to talk to each other.|
|Cisco: $300,000+ (from what little I found on the internet -or- $50,000 per seat)||Polycom: $425,000 ($47,000+ per seat)|
|Price does not include installation and the required maintenance packages. I have an idea what Polycom charges for this but no idea about Cisco.|
Cisco wins because “no one gets fired for buying Cisco products”.
|Cisco: “Scandinavian simplicity meets Californian approachability.” Whatever that means.||Polycom: We outsource design.|
|I’m assuming that the IX5000 was designed in house. At first blush, it’s not a radically different approach from their previous TelePresence offering. It looks pretty nice, though it seems they are heading in Apple’s direction (lots of white recently).Polycom made one big step forward by going back to its immersive roots and allowing stand up, yet made some odd steps back. A 55” data display that’s way up there? 18 feet between me and the guy I’m supposed to be having a meeting with? It’s not a surprise that the Immersive Studio was designed by an outsourced industrial design firm, yet they should have hired one that specializes in furniture. The same firm created the OTX and their Group Series codecs. I guess by outsourcing it forces no single person at Polycom to be on the hook for design. And that is a huge problem.|
|Cisco: De-Skew a Whiteboard||Polycom: Room Within a Room Concept|
|Many people who know the company I work for and what I do have asked me to comment about Cisco’s de-skew capability. I understand what they are trying to do with it, but it’s flawed. A generic four point keystone of an image may make a whiteboard look square on screen if you are perpendicular to the display, but it will make everything else look off, including the person in the capture. There are also limitations on where to put the whiteboard in the room. I could also go into a long mathematical exercise with drawings and fancy pictures but I will try to sum up my thoughts as briefly as possible. When you sit at an aggressive angle to the displays as you do in the IX5000 (the outer seats looking at the outer displays), you get a natural skew of it. In many instances, a skewed on screen whiteboard will actually appear normal to your eye in those circumstances. Keystoning, or de-skewing it therefore INTRODUCES skew to half of the room, not fixing it. But again, I see what they’re trying to do.||I will admit that I am still a fan of the room within a room concept when in a point to point situation. The introduction of BYOD, desktop people and random video sources eliminate most of the benefits of this concept though. In point to point meetings in rooms that are appointed alike, it really give you the feeling that you’re in the same room. And that is what I consider Immersive Telepresence.|
|Cisco: 5||Polycom: 3|
|Overall Winner: Cisco|
There you have it, my run down on what really are the only two immersive telepresence ‘products’ that are out there getting any publicity. Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
When it comes to immersive conferencing, it’s all about the ‘suspension of disbelief’: to trick your mind into believing you’re in the same place as the folks on the screen. To achieve this requires work on elements beyond the gear us techies typically focus on: elements as subtle as wall treatments, table surface, lighting color temp, consistent room furnishings, etc.
You mention room remediation and specific table shapes as though they are negatives.
For true immersive conferencing, extensive room remediation is a good thing.
When a company is spending millions of dollars on first-rate immersive systems, being able to use the table for a normal meeting is not a requirement!
Certain table designs enforce specific placement of meeting participants to ensure consistent image framing / zoom / focus and distance from microphones. Acoustic insulation and wall treatments prevent outside sounds from leaking in and allows noise cancellation systems to be optimally tuned. Even consistent paint & varnish colors play a role in the immersive conferencing experience. These all require extensive room remediation and specific table designs.
Bottom line: you have to recognize what the end goal is for a particular project. For certain budgets, extensive remediation is a deal-killer. But if you’re going for the best immersive experience possible, small details matter.
Number 1 – Room remediation is an absolute negative, no two ways about it. Even the slightest construction project adds thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars to the budget and for what? To fit an inappropriately sized table and display system into a room.
Number 2 – being able to use a table for local conversation (even while being in a video conference) is highly important. The telepresence systems of today are designed with the assumption that local communication is unimportant, and that is simply wrong. The products paint the picture that the only important communication is between the two endpoints and not within either room.
“Certain table designs enforce specific placement of meeting participants to ensure consistent image framing / zoom / focus and distance from microphones. ” – I agree, except for the microphone part. They are placed after the fact. Getting people within the camera capture is/was paramount.