Vidyo Powers Google Video Chat, Gets Patent

16 Comments

Did you know that a startup called Vidyo powers Gmail’s (s GOOG) video chat feature? Not many people do, and that seems to be by design. There’s a tiny little reference to Vidyo’s participation in the product when you install it, though when I talked to Vidyo today they said they don’t comment about the deal publicly. Google built a web client around Vidyo’s system and launched it nearly exactly a year ago; I for one am grateful to whoever powers the functionality to turn my text chats with my sister in Montreal into video; face-to-face is so much better.

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Today Vidyo did comment on something else though: the Hackensack, NJ-based company announced that it has secured a patent for the technology that underlies the telepresence service it provides Google and other customers: “System and Method for a Conference Server Architecture for Low Delay and Distributed Conferencing Applications.” Vidyo’s technology treats every participant in a conference individually so as to give each the best capable up-stream and down-stream experience at any one moment by adjusting bitrates and resolutions dynamically (Google limits its implementation to only two people, but Vidyo can accommodate many more). Through its architecture and the new H.264/SVC video compression standard, Vidyo avoids requiring a centralized multipoint control unit (MCU), as most videoconference systems do.

That means no special equipment, and it also means a remarkable lack of latency; I talked to Vidyo SVP marketing Marty Hollander today using the company’s Mac app for video and my cellphone for audio (not an ideal situation, but our office bandwidth was acting up) and amazingly, his voice and picture were just about perfectly in sync. All you should really need is solid broadband and a webcam. The company, which launched in Jan. 08, is also included in Hitachi’s video conferencing products and Teleris’ telepresence room systems. Check out the charmingly hokey video demo embedded below:

Vidyo has 84 employees and has raised a total of $45 million, including $15 million earlier this year in a round led by Menlo Ventures with Rho Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds and Star Ventures. When it was founded four years ago it was called “Layered Media.”

16 Comments

Marco

Liz, Google has bought Gizmo5 recently. I would love to see a combination between Google wave, google talk, gizmo5 and vidyo. It would be an ideal communication and colaboration desktop tool.

Chip

Vidyo quality is dependent on several limiting factors, including camera/capture resolution, CPU, and bandwidth from each user to the Vidyo router. Many users will not get a high bandwidth low latency connection from end to end through the Vidyo data closet. Bandwidth is expensive, and many users may be disappointed with the results prompting disaffection and tech support calls, as the Vidyo router bottleneck affects some more than others and cannot be fixed by the user. Best to keep the images small and bandwidth requirement modest. Commercial deployment of high-grade Vidyo would require placing Vidyo routers in the kind of co-lo multi-backbone peering points that we use for CDN streaming servers. I have a client that is planning such a Vidyo deployment but it still won’t be cheap to use if you run high bit rates.

Jason

Thats true of any HD video tool though. Look at the alternatives in the professional arena – Polycom, Tandberg, Radvision. Their setups are much less efficient at encoding and decoding HD video and the addition of an CU adds latency into the call. Even SD, low bandwidth calls are subject to latency issues with traditional conferencing infrastructure.

Users who are disappointed will be users that have had their expectations artificially raised. However if the have experienced CMA, Movi, or Scopia at the same kind of bandwidths, on the same hardware – then they will be impressed.

Nikolin Kola

A partnership between Vidyo and Mirial would be a very strategic step.

Marco

Hi Liz, interesting development. We have developed hardware tooling for Vidyo for professional business use: http://www.iris2iris.com/en-UK/home.htm. I expect to see a big growth for online f2f business meetings. I hope Google talk will implement the Vidyo quality. A partnership between Vidyo and Google Talk would be serious competition to Skype.

Liz Gannes

@Marco – the partnership is already there, the question is if Google chooses to bump up the quality in its client. I’m not sure they want to do that for a free product, but I wouldn’t complain!

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