We all see the world through our own eyes. But video conferencing somewhat limits our perspective. Or at least, it did, until the advent of Altia Systems’ new panoramic HD video technology, Panacast.
Panacast is a new system meant to emulate human visual perspective, in order to achieve real-time video streaming with a 200° field of view.
In other words, you see what you want to see, giving users the ability to literally feel as if they were in the room, and able to focus their gaze wherever they wanted within that room.
The way this works is largely down to the camera itself, an ultra-low latency panoramic-HD multi-imager video camera integrated with a powerful streaming server.
The images captured are then crunched by a custom made multi-imager video processor, which synchronizes and stitches the video input from six camera modules in real-time to create the panoramic 200° field of view. That’s pretty much a full range of human head motion, unless you’re Meryl Streep in the movie Death Becomes Her.
It also works at a resolution of 2700x540 pixels at up to 60 frames per second.
The video stream is encoded by an ultra-low latency H.264 codec into an efficient payload that can be transported over the existing network, meaning the video can then be viewed on anything from a mobile phone to a mac or PC.
Users simply change their view, or field of view, with a pinch or a swipe.
What’s the hardware behind this visionary feat? Surely some supercomputing data cruncher? Nope. It’s apparently not much more than dual ARM microprocessors integrated to run the Linux operating system and a bit of real-time firmware.
The performance-optimized software helps a bit, of course. But the end result is what can reasonably be considered a fully-fledged visual computer at a price point below $700.
By comparison, conventional telepresence solutions cost up to $300,000 and require maintenance and dedicated bandwidth in addition.
The more expensive telepresence products on the market today also require participants to be physically present in dedicated rooms to get the full experience, something that is not the case with Panacast.
Altia Systems says the product has been in “stealth development” for three years now, in order to bake its custom silicon and novel algorithms, as well as security features which give it full VPN support for privacy and IT compliance.
Thus far, the Cupertino, California based firm boasts it has had one patent granted with 14 more pending and has already scored a round of venture funding.
Altia Systems has also taken its funding efforts to Kickstarter, where it recently launched a campaign. The product is set to ship in Q1 of 2013 and the firm says it already has 15 cameras from its contract manufacturer in China with another 20 units expected in December and a further 100 cameras in January 2013.
For those keen to snap up the first few units, the firm said it is offering a “significant discount” to early adopters.
I am working at Altia Systems.
We choose to keep audio separate for a good reason allowing the use of Wide band audio E.g. with Skype.
To address the problematic setup issues Altia is using a cloud model which makes setting up supper easy.
David, I believe that the video works fine with IE9, but doesn't show up at all with IE8. Or at least, I saw it a couple of days ago using IE9, but now in this PC, with IE8, I just get a blank rectanlgle.
Don't know about "HD audio," Sylvie, but what they call "HD Radio" in the US is actually a particular version of digital audio broadcasting (they call the Euro version of this DAB and DAB+).
The US version of DAB was contrived by a company called Ibiquity. It (optionally) retains the analog broadcast for FM or AM radio pretty much as is. If the analog spectrum is retained, HD Radio adds a digital channel by using the analog guard bands. If analog is not retained, then you get that much more digital capacity, because the slice of spectrum used by analog could instead be used for more digital space.
The audio codec used is the same as what DAB+ uses in Europe (it's called AAC+, or HE-AACv2). So this codec, or other similar ones, would be used to get good audio quality from a relatively narrow digital channel.
Matter of fact, since you brought up this subject, I discovered that the digital version of an FM station sounds very similar to a good analog rendition (although of course now you get more channels, in addition to the main one). But in the AM band, the quality difference is tremendous. Typical AM sound is limited much like telephone and videoconferencing, in practive to about 3000 Hz in each case. When you get the digital version of an AM station, it's strikingly better. Maybe not quite as good as HD Radio in FM frequencies, but pretty darned close. In my experience, you only see one digital program for each AM station, though, and three digital programs is common for each FM station.
My video conferencing experience had been similar until I decided to give up on having video and audio in one system. Now I just use a standard telephone conference and separately set up a video conference. Usually the video will be through Skype or Turbo meeting, but the audio will be dial-up phone. That doesn't help with the telephone bill, but it does give good performance. I just have yet to see an economical system that lives up to its claims in the real-world.
Is that what they call "HD Audio" Bert? I agree with you that good audio makes a huge difference. It's currently the worst part of conference calls. Having some decent cinematic surround sound would really help who was talking and where they were in the room!
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.