Click the question for the answer:
What is IITS?
A: IITS is the University of Alabama System telepresence infrastructure.
Can anyone use IITS?
A: Yes.
What is telepresence conferencing?
A: Telepresence conferencing is an interactive tool that uses video, computing, and communication technologies to allow people in different locations to meet face-to-face and perform most of the same meeting activities they would perform if all participants were in the same room. Participants can be at two locations or many different locations, domestic locations or international locations. In other words, telepresence is the process of conducting a conference between two or more people at different locations by using computer networks to transmit audio and video data. This technology can be used to send two-way video and audio over a variety of telepresence services to facilitate university business meetings, classroom access to outside expertise, and distance learning. Telepresence is becoming more popular on college and university campuses and is being used to reach remote students, faculty, researchers, etc to bring them together.
What are the forms and protocols of telepresence?
A: There are mainly two formats for telepresence:

1. Point-to-Point telepresence: This is conferencing with video and audio on the network much like a video telephone. It is a conference between two sites where each site can have capabilities like document sharing, chatting, etc.

2. Multiple Point telepresence: Multipoint telepresence allows three or more participants to sit in a virtual conference room and communicate as if they were sitting right next to each other. Related to multiple site telepresence is bridging where sites connect through a meeting point software that supports capabilities like document sharing, chatting, etc. The most used protocols are as following: H.323: Internet-Based connection that is the cheapest way to go with. Basically, you use the Internet as the medium to transmit audio and video. H.320: or what is known by ISDN which is transmitted through digital telephone lines. There is a cost associated with the usage of this protocol.
Are all the systems compatible with one another?
A: Systems that work on the same protocol are compatible with one another. In other words, if you have an Internet-based telepresence unit (H.323), it can be connected to another one that also works over the Internet even if it does not necessarily use the same camera. Similarly, you can connect to different telepresence units that work via ISDN digital telephone lines (H.320). Compatibility becomes an issue when you have multiple sites and you want to connect them over a bridge. The bridging software might not be compatible with all the systems, which makes a connection impossible. A rule of thumb is to check the equipment on all the sites in advance and see whether they are compatible with the bridging software.
What are some general terms in telepresence?
A: MCU – Multipoint Control Unit must be used for three or more sites.

- 112, 128, 224, 256, 336, 384, 512, 768, 1024, 1280, 1600, and 1920 kbps: refers to the speed at which data (voice and video) is transmitted over the telepresence service during a telepresence.

- Audio conference or teleconference: A telephone call involving three or more different locations.

- Auto-tracking camera: A feature that enables the camera to follow you around a room by the sounds you make.

- Some telepresence basic controls:

1. Video call - establishing the connection

2. Video controls - selecting sources, preview of images before sending, sending the images

3. Audio - muting the microphone and adjusting the volume

4. Camera controls - pan, tilt and zoom.

- Bridge: Software on a dedicated server that provides multipoint conferencing, some new telepresence units have a built in MCU (Multiple Connection Unit) that allows multiple site connections.

- Codec: The piece of the telepresence that Codes and Decodes the telepresence signal so that it can be sent over the network or telephone lines.

- Compressed Site: Refers to a telepresence site that uses telephone lines to make the connection.

- Computer Interface: Equipment used to connect a computer to a telepresence unit.

- Continuous Presence: Multiple squares (usually four) on one television monitor, displaying a different site in each square.

- Desktop Conferencing: using a personal computer to telepresence.

• Suitable for a small number of participants on the site (4 or less)

• Allows simultaneous transmission of documents (file sharing) or working together on files (collaborative working)

• Convenient

- Dial (Dial-Up) Numbers: The IP addresses or the phone numbers assigned to the telepresence unit.

- Far-end: Refers to the telepresence site you are connected to.

- Far-end Control: Refers to when you control the telepresence equipment at a site other than the one where you are physically located. Can only be used in point-to-point telepresences and only if that option is enabled on the equipment at the far-end.

- Gateway: Equipment that allows telepresence equipment on one network to talk to telepresence on another network - i.e. compressed sites connecting to LAN-based sites.

- High Speed: Refers to a telepresence that is connected at a speed of 256kbps or higher.

- Internet-based telepresence: Internet-based telepresence: where the internet is used to connect the telepresence instead of telephone lines. The most important benefit is that there are no long distance costs.

- ISDN: Integrated Services Digital Network, basically a digital telephone network.

- KBPS or kbps: kilobits per second, the speed at which data - video and voice - can travel over telephone lines.

- Low Speed: Refers to a telepresence that is connected at a speed of 128 kbps or lower.

- Multipoint: A telepresence involving three or more sites.

- Mute: Each site is equipped with the mute function, either in the form of a button that is pressed on the remote control or keypad operating the system or on the microphone itself. When your site is muted no one else can hear your audio. Having all sites except the presenting site on mute improves the audio quality of the telepresence by blocking the noise of paper shuffling, pencil tapping etc. and eliminates unnecessary switching of the camera from site to site in response to sounds.

- Near-End: Refers to the telepresence site you are at - the other site is/are the far-end.

- Picture-in-Picture: When a television monitor displays a small picture of a different image than the one being displayed full-screen. In telepresence picture-in-picture is often used to avoid having two monitors.

- Point-to-Point: A telepresence between two units.

- Pre-sets: Refers to the ability to preprogram camera shots so that with the press of one button the camera will zoom/pan/tilt to a previously arranged camera position.

- Room-Based telepresence: Using a telepresence unit that is designed solely for telepresence - unlike a desktop unit where the desktop computer is used for telepresence and a host of other applications, a room-based unit does only telepresence.

• Suitable for use in classrooms, meeting rooms, and conference rooms

• Usually capable of higher levels of connection than the desktop

• Good for groups of 3 or more on a site.

Is there any etiquette to follow in a telepresence?
A: The following are some suggested practices to ensure a successful telepresence for all participants and presenters.

Procedures for Participants

1. Arrive 15 minutes before the telepresence: Arriving early provides an opportunity to find a seat, conduct introductions among participants, and organize materials for the meeting.

2. Sound:
- Ensure you can be heard.
- Speak clearly and towards the microphone.
- Avoid shuffling papers or tapping objects near the microphones.
- Keep your microphone on mute at all times until the host/facilitator asks your site to respond (good practice). This improves the audio quality for everyone in the telepresence by removing extraneous room noise (chairs, paper shuffling etc.)

3. Avoid side conversations that would exclude the far-end sites from your conversation. Interactivity between all locations is the key to a successful telepresence.

4. Ideas and comments from each remote site should be encouraged and discussed within the timeframe of the agenda.

5. Once the connections have been made with the sites in the conference, all participants should introduce themselves. This helps to establish appropriate audio levels in all the meeting rooms. Remember, just because the other participants are not in the same room, proper business protocol should still be followed.

Procedures for Site Hosts/Facilitators/Presenters

1. Familiarize yourself with the room and the equipment in general. Presenters that will be using a number of devices (document camera, vcr, computer) may want to arrange a visit to the room a week or so before the telepresence, to practice operating the equipment. If the event will be large, complex or critical we highly recommend a rehearsal session.

2. Participants should remember to pause for reaction. In order to coordinate the audio and the video coming from a site there is a delay that you have to take into consideration. The video picture is compressed before being transmitted and decompressed at the receiving sites. The higher data rate produces a higher quality visual image.

3. The compression process will sometimes make the other sites move on the monitor in a jerky motion. This distortion is called artifacting or pixelation. Movement should be kept to a minimum to reduce this effect. With the higher transmission rate, the jerky movement is less noticeable. Most participants grow accustomed to this effect quite quickly.
How can I teach or present through telepresence?
A: Planning on paper:

Phase 1 - splitting up the content • determine the content • establish the structure • draw up the list of subdivisions

Phase 2 - establishing a rough timing • allocate an approximate length to subdivisions • set time aside for breaks and introductions

Phase 3 - planning the learning and teaching activities bearing in mind: • Variation • On-line versus off-line • Interaction versus no interaction • Icebreaker Some possibilities: lecture, guest speaker, video/audio, demonstration, questions and answers, silent reading, reading aloud, written exercise, oral exercise, discussion, brainstorming, role play, chatting, sharing, group work and assignments, transferring files, and presenting capabilities.

Phase 4 - selecting and designing support material bearing in mind: • On-line versus off-line Some Possibilities: Ready-made slides, Documents on a document Camera, spontaneous slides, tables and diagrams, photographs and drawings, video, audio, computer applications, telephone, fax, lesson outline, articles, books and textbooks, demonstration objects, WebPages, etc...

Phase 5 - evaluating • From the learner's point of view • From the teacher's point of view

Phase 6 - final timing Leaving space for: • Introductions, agreements and going over the outline • Breaks • Informal questions and - if necessary - feedback

Phase 7 - contingency planning In case of technical problems or what you call plan B, or you need on site support that is good in trouble shooting the problems. What practical arrangements do I need to do to enhance the conference?

Before the class

1. Organize • draw up a checklist of everything you need • make arrangements with your own telepresence administrator • make arrangements with the telepresence administrator at the far end • make arrangements with your guest speakers

2. Inform • draw up a letter for the learners • send out the letter with the material you can't transmit during the lesson • introduce the learners to the technology

During the class session

1. Presets • Choose them well and arrange them logically

2. Presentation techniques • Above all: be relaxed, accept the slowness of the medium, and only do things the medium can handle.

o Commentator: announce everything

o Presenter: enunciate clearly and take responsibility

o Moderator: provoke interaction, explain the rules, and be explicitly in charge

o Director: use camera movements and changes sparingly

What are the features and requirements of various systems?
A: Room Based: Polycom SP Viewstation (Max 768 kbps)

• Exceptionally clear images at 15 fps at 128 kbps

• Maximum clarity full duplex digital audio with noise suppression and echo cancellation

• Embedded Web capabilities enable remote system management,diagnostics, simple software upgrades and more powerful presentations.

• H.323/H.320 flexibility for push button Internet, intranet or ISDN conferencing

• Unique voice-tracking camera and track-to-preset function focuses automatically on the speaker.

• Remote control operates easily from anywhere in the room • Get more information from Polycom's website: Polycom FX Viewstation (Max 1920 kbps)

• Connect up to four sites at 384 kbps or three sites at 512 kbps with no outside bridging over H.320 (ISDN) or H.323 (Internet)

• Voice tracking camera and track-to-preset function automatically focus on the speaker • Web-based presentation system makes it easy to use graphics and slides

• Full duplex digital audio with noise suppression and echo cancellation

• Full-motion video at 30 frames per second; TV quality beginning at 512 Kbps

• Address book records numbers frequently dialed

• An embedded Web server handles diagnostics and simple software upgrades over the Net

• Get more information from Polycom's website:

Desktop Conferencing:

• Polycom ViaVideo

• No additional hardware needed

 • Clarity by Polycom technology for full-duplex digital audio with noise suppression and echo cancellation

• Simple GUI makes setup fast and foolproof

• Integrated Microsoft NetMeeting data collaboration capabilities

• Business quality in a portable package • Small enough to fit in your shirt pocket

• Supports IP-based (H.323)

• Communications over LAN, DSL and cable networks Business-quality video at up to 30 fps FXIP

• PC Operating system compatibility with Windows 98, Windows ME and Windows 2000

Minium Hardware Requirements

• USB Port • 350 MHz processor, Pentium® II compatible MMX

• 64 MB RAM

• 4 MB video memory

• 120 MB available hard disk space (may be less, if required software already installed)

• SVGA monitor (800 x 600)

• 16 bit color or higher • Broadband IP network access (32 KB and above)

• Desktop PC with headphones, headset or external speakers OR

• Laptop PC with headphones, headset or internal speakers

Minimum Software Requirements

• DirectX®7

• Adobe Acrobat Reader™ version 4

• Microsoft database support (ODBC)

• NetMeeting® 3.01