Tandberg T3: 12 months on

Posted on

It is just under a year since Tandberg’s initial announcement of its T3 telepresence solution. Many were sceptical about hanging their sales arguments on the principals of social anthropology and interior decoration, but, as we found out, over the year T3 has matured and developed into a really compelling offering.

Given the crazy year that we, along with everyone else had to date, perhaps we can be forgiven for not rushing to revisit products launched 12 months previously, and which we had already described in print. But when Tandberg offered us the chance to have a go on the fully fledged T3 in their Staines office, during one of the company’s regular partner days, we thought why not?

Typically, we looked slightly askance at all the talk about engaging social anthropologists (to help with the design) at the time of the T3’s announcement last October. Since then, the T3 has gone to win a list of prestigious awards and has been the subject of significant development to extend its compatibility with both third party telepresence solutions and all manner of video and audio communications technologies.

Room with a view

On walking into the T3 telepresence suite, it is immediately apparent that this is something special. For anybody that had experienced Tandberg’s Experia installation in the company’s old Egham offices, this is a different world. The environment of the T3 suite is such that no reseller would have any issues visiting with a customer’s CEO or senior public sector official.

Even aside from the features necessary to create the telepresence effect, the room is also planned to facilitate meaningful communication and collaboration. Whether the telling contribution came from the social anthropologist, the interior decorator or the technology guys, it certainly works. Anders Mortvedt, theatre product manager EMEA endpoints and telepresence at Tandberg. Explained that

“The design of the room was just as important as the technology. We started with the challenge of the human factors – the barriers that have to be overcome to make people believe that they are sitting in the same room when some are potentially thousands of miles away. For example, we chose a largely blue interior. Blue, as the colour of the sky, is a colour that is ever-present – one that we tend to forget and so it is not distracting. We chose a blue descending to white vignette to mirror the effect of sunlight. This is optimistic and energy boosting.”

At the date of its introduction, we were promised that the T3 would “create an experience that is personal and comfortable while meeting the highest executive standards”. In this respect, Tandberg has been very successful. The blue walls, new lighting gantries and extensive use of dark wood, aluminium and glass combine, in Tandberg’s words, to create an “exclusive finish”. It’s a bit like having a meeting in a BMW 7 Series or a Mercedes S Class.

Personal service

In terms of the physical layout of the room, it follows one of the principals of telepresence that requires the technology to be largely invisible. The lenses of the PrecisionHD 1080p cameras blend into the screen surrounds. Microphones and loudspeakers are nowhere to be seen. In terms of the bits you can see, the bank of three 65-inch LCD displays are joined by three tabletop touch screens that replace the Experia-style data screen mounted below the main displays.

The 65-inch displays are Full HD (1080p) and the combination of the increased size of the displays and increased resolution combine to give remote meeting participants much greater depth than previous generations of telepresence. Whether it is the screens, the software, the vignette or greater attention to the set-up, but the calibration of the displays was spot on, further enhancing the telepresence effect.

Moving to the bank of three tabletop data screens, these represent a significant improvement over the single screen mounted under the main screens in the Experia system, but we have to ask why three? In a six seat configuration, why not one for each participant? These screens serve as both touchscreen control panels for the T3 and data displays. From a control point of view screen sharing is fine.

Niggles

From a data point of view, we would have preferred individual screens with some collaboration functionality built-in, but we have to concede the three screen arrangement doesn’t impair communication. The control aspect couldn’t really be easier, with a list of available end points displayed as buttons to touch for connection.

Meeting participants can change their view of the room configuration, with the potential to add more participants than the standard six. A neat feature allows you to show a small picture-in-picture display of all the remote meeting participants so that you reassure yourself that you have their attention when you are speaking.

Another slight with the T3 is audio quality. The T3 has been designed with acoustic damping to give voices in a room a natural sound. The system’s software feeds meeting participants’ voices back through the audio system to create a similar ambience in both end-points. The equalisation is configured to favour clarity and precision, to aid understanding. The result, in our estimation, is a rather mechanical edge to the sound that, while precise, doesn’t have the timbre of a natural voice.

Tandberg agreed that this is an issue and said that it the equalisation issue is being addressed in future software releases.

Interoperability

Key to the success of the T3 is the extent to which it is interoperable with other remote communications devices. Tandberg’s increasing presence in mobile and desktop video provides an on-ramp for remote communication with T3 users, and this is complemented by connectivity with standards-based PC and third-party video communications solution.

Tandberg’s philosophy is that T3 meeting participants should be able to connect when and wherever they need to without being locked into a specific system, network or bandwidth. In our T3 session, we were hooked up to participants using the new Tandberg PrecisionHD USB camera. This is optimised for Tandberg Movi and Microsoft Office Communicator R2 and offers 720p high definition with 30 frames per second for business-quality video communications.

When connected the laptop user sees a view of the meeting participants and any data or presentations featured in the session all on one screen. The meeting participant speaking at any particular moment is shown in a larger window. Sessions can also be recorded, using Tandberg’s Conference Server, and also played back on one screen systems.

At the other extreme, an upgrade to Tandberg’s Telepresence Server announced in April enables T3 to maintain a telepresence experience when calling out to third-party telepresence systems, including Polycom. This interoperability allows the T3 to act as a hub with video communications downstream to desktop and mobile devices and across to other vendor’s telepresence solutions.
With T3, Tandberg has created an effective and immersive telepresence environment, simplified the user interface and bridged the divide with other vendors’ solutions and the various islands of video communication technology. While we have flagged up a couple of niggles, these are almost insignificant in comparison to what T3 has to offer. A year on from its first announcement, this telepresence solution has matured to the point where it cannot fail to impress. We recommend that you go and see it if you can.

Captions:

1. Tandberg’s T3 telepresence solution: 12 months ago, with all the talk of social anthropologists and interior design to catch the essence of Nordic sunlight, we were understandably sceptical. Now we are convinced.

2. While the new tabletop data and control screens are a big improvement over a single screen mounted under the main displays, we still found the need to share something of a niggle.

Abridged and republished from AV News October 2009


This entry was posted in Features. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

issue link

Channel Zone

Video Reports:

Fatal error: Uncaught exception 'Zend_Gdata_App_HttpException' with message 'Expected response code 200, got 410 GDataNoLongerAvailableExceptionNo longer available' in /var/www/ucnews/wp-content/plugins/VCNews-Youtube/Zend/Gdata/App.php:709 Stack trace: #0 /var/www/ucnews/wp-content/plugins/VCNews-Youtube/Zend/Gdata.php(221): Zend_Gdata_App->performHttpRequest('GET', 'http://gdata.yo...', Array, NULL, NULL, NULL) #1 /var/www/ucnews/wp-content/plugins/VCNews-Youtube/Zend/Gdata/App.php(875): Zend_Gdata->performHttpRequest('GET', 'http://gdata.yo...', Array) #2 /var/www/ucnews/wp-content/plugins/VCNews-Youtube/Zend/Gdata/App.php(763): Zend_Gdata_App->get('http://gdata.yo...', NULL) #3 /var/www/ucnews/wp-content/plugins/VCNews-Youtube/Zend/Gdata/App.php(205): Zend_Gdata_App->importUrl('http://gdata.yo...', 'Zend_Gdata_YouT...', NULL) #4 /var/www/ucnews/wp-content/plugins/VCNews-Youtube/Zend/G in /var/www/ucnews/wp-content/plugins/VCNews-Youtube/Zend/Gdata/App.php on line 709