Microsoft brings 360-degree videoconferencing to Ireland

4 Feb 2008

Microsoft has revealed that its next-generation videoconferencing technology, which allows for roundtable conferencing, is to be made available in Ireland.

Microsoft RoundTable is an all-in-one videoconferencing device that broadcasts synchronised audio and video over a standard Windows-based PC.

A tabletop device, not much bigger than a traditional speakerphone at the base, it captures and provides a 360-degree panoramic view of everyone at the meeting. Microsoft RoundTable follows the conversation, identifying individual speakers and broadcasting their image in close-up as they talk; as people enter the conversation, the system cuts seamlessly between active speakers.

Traditional audio teleconferencing presents problems, with effective interaction falling away as the number of participants increases – establishing who is speaking at any given time becomes more and more difficult.

Videoconferencing systems overcome this obstacle but are expensive and difficult to install, and can be complicated to operate. The results are a limited number of expensively adapted meeting rooms, which often need to be booked days in advance. The inflexibility of each solution can mean that physical meetings are unavoidable, with attendant costs and complications.

Microsoft RoundTable’s plug-and-play deployment means that, once the system is connected via USB to either Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 or Microsoft Office Live Meeting service (2007), it is ready to use.

“Microsoft RoundTable looks like, and is as simple to use as, a teleconference audio phone but delivers the effective communication of videoconferencing,” said Lukas Keller, unified communications business lead at Microsoft.

“Any space can become a videoconferencing room in the time it takes to attach Microsoft RoundTable’s USB cable to a computer with a network connection, and at a fraction of the cost of current systems.

“In extending availability, Microsoft is helping its western European customers to save time and money whilst significantly increasing meeting effectiveness.”

By recording discussions, the system allows users to see content, view any Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentation used and understand the meeting dynamic by watching participants in real time.

Recorded audio and video is synchronised with meeting content so users can easily fast forward and rewind to relevant sections of the meeting.

Microsoft RoundTable is now available for purchase at an estimated retail price of €2,000.

By John Kennedy