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I'm looking to improve the user experience in our video conference rooms, by simplifying the things users do all the time (setting up a call, muting and unmuting, panning and zooming between a few room-appropriate presets) and totally taking away the functions that we don't use or that are more likely to ruin the experience (changing the brightness of the TV, using the VNC presenter mode).

The rooms each have Tandberg Edge or MXP video units, I'm not looking at PC-based solutions like Skype or iChat.

The classic way to do this would be to plunk down huge money for an AMX or Crestron panel. This does have some advantages, and I am considering that approach, but in my initial investigation, that looks expensive, inflexible, and proprietary.

On the other hand, the Tandberg video units I'm looking to control are very thorough XML API (PDF), so some of the integration magic that Crestron and AMX consider to be a value add, I could reproduce at mashup speeds.

Anyone aware of an Open Source or Commercial product that takes advantage of the readily available web APIs, some simple touch screen PCs, and builds a product that is more like skinning an AJAX web app, and ideally more cost effective than the proprietary panels?

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closed as off-topic by TomTom, Tom O'Connor Feb 18 at 10:02

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I think this is probably better suited for superuser.com –  squillman Sep 22 '09 at 23:03
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In the last three place I've worked the video conferencing kit and software were supported though IT (well, its a collaboration between IT and the most frequent user at my current place of employment, but still). The thing is that multiplexed video conferencing is complicated and often calls for ports to be opened in the firewall, and other things that users are often required to grovel for. –  dmckee Sep 22 '09 at 23:15
    
Ok, I see your point. Conceded :) –  squillman Sep 22 '09 at 23:24
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Yeah, definitely in the correct place. I support these kinds of video conferencing systems throughout the state and would LOVE to see a less proprietary implementation of this. We recently updated our AMX panel (Programming of the controls) and payed around 10k+ for just one room... and that was considered cheap! –  l0c0b0x Oct 8 '09 at 6:36
    
Pitty these systems such as Tandberg (now Cisco), Polycom, LifeSize or any others don't support customizable web console controls... or do they? –  l0c0b0x Oct 8 '09 at 6:41

7 Answers 7

I've setup a bunch polycom equipment, they have very high quality hardware. Wonderful conference call equipment too. But they need a slew of open ports for communication and management and lastly their pc software leaves much to be desired.

Since breaking partnership with the company we used to communicate with, when video calls come up we've turned to skype. Every single factory, warehouse, and office we've worked with has it or is willing to get it. Unlike the costly polycom equipment and its video quality is outright amazing.

Unless you have a need for advanced features (multiple endpoints for example - which we've solved with multiple machines), a laptop with a camera with skype can take you very far.

You might find this blog post about video conferencing with skype from Leo Laporte useful.

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My last couple of Places of Employment have used Polycom, which is more COTS, but interacts reasonably well with SIP.

I don't know anything about the internals, and there have been a few hiccups now and then.

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You should try and check out DimDim.

A few of us use it when we showcase sites for clients. It's also Open Source too.

http://www.dimdim.com/opensource/dimdim%5Fopen%5Fsource%5Fcommunity%5Fedition.html

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I believe the link is dimdim.com/community/community.html –  Nathan Adams Apr 12 '10 at 0:12

Bit of a random and untested idea, as I look after a set of rooms with Tandberg codecs and customised AMX control systems and panels. Policy at some sites is to lock up the remote.

But I wonder if an "all for one" or similar learning replacement remote control might allow you to provide users with a remote control with a reduced feature set.

Perhaps it's even a chance to try out a Logitech Harmony remote - this has IR learning facility and nice programmable interface. Lot cheaper than an AMX panel and company to program it for you.

Otherwise there's always the really cheap DIY approach to limiting which buttons people use on a remote control - just use a piece of card, tape and a marker pen.

http://www.unplggd.com/unplggd/remote-control-devices/look-the-simplified-remote-control-078199

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Jeremy,

I have done quite a bit of work with AMX in the past and swear by it - but the only reason I use it is because I have never found an open source alternative. I have hacked together "solutions" running x86 Windows CE of questionable licensing integrity, but these usually end up sources of constant frustration as nothing ever works "quite right".

Unfortunately, you'll probably need to spring for a NetLinx. They have a smaller version now (http://www.amx.com/products/NI-700.asp) which would probably be more suitable to your needs rather than springing for a NL2100 or something overkill. It has serial control for the Tandbergs and an IR interface for the TV (if it does not have serial control).

Have a look at one of the smaller 5" panels (http://www.amx.com/products/MVP-5150.asp) - the WiFi version is easy as pie to integrate with the NetLinx (just put a new WiFi AP in with a crossover cable to the interface, no need to touch the corporate network) and should provide a consistent user experience.

It's not the cheap way out but there are cheap*er* ways to approach AMX than going all out :)

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Even I would prefer Polycom equipments. They are very good, in high quality video conferencing. It could also need a good ISP connection.

Otherwise, little more cheaper solution would be Webex from Cisco.This is also offering video conferencing with document sharing.

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It seems that Polycom best suits your requirement because of your exclusive video conferencing needs. Other alternatives for web video conferencing are RHUB, WebEx, GoMeetNow, gotomeeting etc.

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The question you answered has been put on hold as off-topic, and the same reasoning applies to this answer. –  Andrew Schulman Feb 19 at 18:04

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