Telepresence was science fiction in the 50s, a Disneyland attraction in the 60s, and eventually morphed into costly corporate “telepresence rooms” and other high-end systems, which relied on expensive dedicated communications lines.
Vidyo, a start-up company in New Jersey, says it has invented the next generation of teleconferencing that is cheaper and more portable, in part by using the Web to transmit, getting around the need for special communications lines and instead using the Web. It says that it will make teleconferencing available in offices, homes and hotels – and not just in boardrooms.
“Our product is a breakthrough to democratize telepresence and make it more affordable and portable,” said Ofer Shapiro, chief executive of Vidyo. Shapiro knows the earlier generation. He led the design team at Radvision in the 1990s that designed a key piece of equipment called a Multipoint Control Unit, or MCU, still in use today. Shapiro thinks it obsolete.
Most teleconferencing offered today by such dominant players as Tandberg and Polycom, depends on MCUs, which are refrigerator-sized appliances that take television pictures from individual feeds, re-digest them and then put them together as Hollywood Square style pictures on a single screen.
The companies are players in a market projected to explode. Research firm Gartner says Teleconferencing among corporate users is projected to increase nearly 30-fold by 2015, to 200 million from 7 million last year.