VSee Saves the Day for New York State Department of Health

Total Webcasting NYS Health Department

It’s been a long, rough winter here on the East Coast, but luckily snow is no obstacle to business continuity for VSee users. Total Webcasting with the use of VSee was able to keep the New York State Health Department productive and on schedule with their plans despite a January 21 snowstorm that ripped across the Mid-Atlantic Coast, leaving behind so much snow and damage that Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew M. Cuomo declared states of emergency for all or parts of their states.

The following morning,  the New York Health Department in Watertown, NY was holding a very important meeting which they needed to Webcast to the public.  The challenge was integrating the group presenting from Albany to the main group in Watertown as well as to the viewing public, even in the extreme weather (a nasty, snowy -35 degrees F that morning). To make matters worse, the hotel where the meeting was taking place “just happened to be” bandwidth-challenged.

But all went smoothly with VSee low bandwidth video conference performing well on the available network. Total Webcasting Robert Feldman reported “as I write this, there is a full duplex conversation going on between the sites as well as full integration into the Webcast.” So hip hip hooray for VSee and Total Webcasting for saving the day for the NYS Department of Health!

About Total Webcasting

Total Webcasting

Total Webcasting Inc., based in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley, was founded in 2001 as a Webcasting Service Provider. Specializing in live and on-demand Webcasting, Total Webcasting offers complete streaming solutions that allow businesses accomplish more, save money, reach and engage a wider audience, and create a positive user experience. Total Webcasting has helped local, national and global organizations of all sizes enhance their communication strategies.

VSee Telemedicine Plays Key Role in Global Humanitarian Relief

“I feel like Thomas Edison…we don’t know how something works, but we know 200 ways not to do something, and so far, VSee has proven to be the best tool on the field.” – Randy Roberson, Disaster Relief Specialist

(Video link:  VSee in Action- HELP Telemedicine in Haiti)

Fifteen years ago, a chance meeting with a 40-year veteran of the humanitarian relief field and a life-changing visit to Calcutta lead Randy Roberson to make a quantum leap from broadcasting to disaster recovery logistics.  Since then Roberson has been literally dropped into numerous disaster situations around the world — India, Haiti, Afghanistan, Japan…as well as within the U.S.  His experiences have led him to the develop a robust set of technological tools that help emergency response workers effectively provide aid amidst the chaos and destruction of a disaster.  As he puts it bluntly, “the disaster technology was developed because I got tired of seeing people die on the field.”

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Challenges of Skype and Google Hangouts for MOOCs

Guest Post by Sankalp Garud – a 16-year-old problem solver, math whiz, online learning evangelist and entrepreneur.  You can watch his educational videos on http://YouTube.com/tapthetech

I’m glad I can write this post at a time when the education system seems to be in a transition phase. With the development of great free online tools like Coursera and the Khann Academy, the Internet is fast penetrating into our learning routine. However these courses are still in need of video chat collaboration tools that can make online group study sessions effective and social.

How Online Education Changed My Learning

There are many reasons why the Internet is proving to be great for education, but access, irrespective of caste, gender, time zone etc., is the number one factor that makes it an ideal platform for learning. A few years ago (slightly more than 2, to be precise), I started watching Khan Academy videos. Beginning with Trigonometry, I watched almost all the videos that taught topics in my school curriculum. After that, I moved on to Pre-Calculus and then Calculus. I was about two years ahead of my peers  in math. The videos not only made me ‘feel good’ about myself, but they also gave me confidence in Math. I became much more comfortable with the easier material in school. It seemed like a piece of cake!

The need for Video Chat + Collaboration in MOOCs

Last year we saw significant development of MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. These were world class universities giving their lectures for free. The best thing about MOOCs is you can pause videos whenever you are struggling, rewind and relearn — without any embarrassment. (I think that the pause button is the single most revolutionary command when it comes to MOOCs). Unfortunately the videos alone won’t do the trick. The “social collaboration/ interaction” part was missing. How could we make online courses more interactive? How could we humanize the cloud classroom? How can students collaborate with the instructor and his peers? These are questions we still are trying to solve.

Among popular MOOCs such as edX , Udacity and others, Coursera is by far the most successful mainly due to two reasons: 1. It’s free 2. It has more courses. I have successfully completed one MOOC on Coursera with distinction, Introduction to Mathematical Thinking (IMT), by Dr. Keith Devlin of Stanford.  An interesting fact came to light after I took the course. I realized that the most effective learning that took place in the course happened in the discussion forums. I entered other MOOCs, and it was the same thing. So, collaboration matters!

But discussion forums can be a pain, especially when you want to type something like x^2+1 = phi.  This is annoying to read as well as to interpret. Most of the web forums are still developing support for math.  Coursera has already developed them, yet it still feels inorganic. Human beings are used to seeing people and talking to them, and eye contact is key. Video Chat could be a potential solution!

The failure of Skype and Google Hangouts for online collaboration

While I was taking IMT, I joined a Skype study group. That was my very first attempt to collaborate through video chat. Needless to say, it failed. We couldn’t do anything, just a few small video chats here and there and that was it. So even though IMT was successful due to the discussion forums, the video collaboration just didn’t work out. Perhaps you could blame the math for that – how do you ‘discuss’ Number Theory without having any screen sharing or something similar?  There was also a tool called StudyRoom, basically a whiteboard sharing software. It showed some positive signs, just like the discussion forums.

After IMT was over, there was a long time before my next course would start. I decided to take random MOOC’s at that time, just for fun, not totally committing all my resources to them. I started taking Duke’s “Think Again: How to Reason and Argue.”  This course was the first one to incorporate Google+ Hangouts as an official study collaboration tool. The day Hangouts was introduced, the video chat rooms were totally full of students. I struggled to even get into one due to the 10 person Hangout restriction. The first time I got chance, I was welcomed by some of my coursemates there, in subsequent days we also talked about studies. Sadly, in about a week, you could hear a pin drop in the chat rooms. Did Hangouts also fail as a study tool? Yes, but not as badly as the previous time I tried video collaboration with Skype. At least we attempted to study. In fact, there were positive signs for video chat collaboration.

What were these tools lacking? First of all, both Skype and Google Hangouts are not meant for studying full time. If there is an ideal tool, then that tool has to be dedicated to studying. StudyRoom looks good, but it restricts you to whiteboard only.

What the perfect study tool needs to have

1.  For the purpose at hand, it needs to be geared towards full time studying

2.  Intuitive. In the sense of not very geeky or hard to use, because a history major, for instance, won’t care about the ping rate.

3.  Should know to handle time zones! (boy, isn’t this a major problem, especially when there are due dates and stuff)

4.  Quantitatively speaking, screen sharing, annotations, group discussion facilities (With and without a host) are the things to be included. I don’t think it should take long for such an ultimate tool to exist! But wait, the list isn’t over,

5.  Should provide motivation for people to use them in some way. Now this last point, perhaps is an idiot’s point. But for some strange reason, people don’t want to go to Skype, especially when the intention is to study. Compare this to studying in a park with green trees around to studying in a dark closet with some mice and cockroaches around (I needed to get that contrast, sorry). This motivation can be anything: an elegant UI, ability to buzz each other, ability to explore with new people on the same concept and get help from them or something entirely different. The tool which achieves this last point, I’m sure, will be the future of online video collaboration.

Thank you!

Sankalp online education and video collaboration evangelistSankalp Garud is a 16 year old boy living in Mumbai, India. He likes math and computers in particular. Fascinated by the potential of MOOCs and online education, he also wishes to be a part of this revolution. He has been actively using educational resources, from Khanacademy to Coursera, right from their early days.
His personal youtube channel is http://YouTube.com/sankalp35  while he has currently assembled a small group that will be making educational videos posted on http://YouTube.com/tapthetech

Worksnug Interviews VSee on Video Conferencing Productivity

Video link: Worksnug interview – Milton on Video Conferencing Productivity

Check out Worksnug community manager San Sharma‘s interview of VSee CEO, Milton Chen.  In 20 minutes they packed in everything from

  • why Cisco WebEx is great for sales presentations, but bad for virtual teams
  • how a 1 second delay in clicking can mean a 50% loss of productivity
  • what you need for good video communication

About Worksnug

WorkSnug is a tool that connects mobile workers to the nearest and best places to work in the major cities of the world.  With dozens of teams around the globe, they review hundreds of viable workspaces for such things as WiFi, noise levels, power provision, community feel, even the quality of the coffee.  Users can also add their own reviews to Worksnug’s extensive database.  Get reviews from the website, or better yet, from WorkSnug’s free Augmented Reality iPhone app.

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Why Google Hangouts Dropped Vidyo For WebRTC

Updated July 9, 2014

So Google really has dropped the Vidyo plugin for Hangouts as it switches over to its VP8 video codec. It’s still not on WebRTC, although it’s surely getting there.  On dev versions of Chrome, Google Hangouts is now plugin-less.

In my article on VSee vs. Google+ Hangouts, I mentioned that Google had used Vidyo’s technology at one point to power their real-time video products (such as Hangouts and GoogleTalk video chat).  However, they eventually dropped Vidyo because in the end, Vidyo is just too complicated and requires too much infrastructure.  Meanwhile, the direction Google is heading is a browser-based experience with WebRTC.  In fact, this is the trend for video conferencing in general.  Here’s my quick summary of where video conferencing is going.

Three Generations of Video Conferencing Architecture

First generation: products such as Polycom and Tandberg (+) These products made video quality good enough for high quality conversations for the first time in history at a reasonable price (for IT departments).  Before Polycom and Tandberg, your choices were expensive hardware such as PictureTel ($100K to $200K) or software such as CUseeMe.  Software-based video quality was sufficiently poor that it was mainly a novelty and didn’t have market adoption.  Polycom and Tandberg offered hardware in the $10K to 30K range, a cost low enough for IT to purchase for conference rooms.  Polycom and Tandberg became billion dollar companies. (-) A downside of the first generation products is that dedicated hardware is required for the end point.

Second generation: products such as Vidyo and Blue Jeans Network. (+) These products were able to replace the hardware endpoint with software-only endpoints, and still achieve amazing video quality.  Furthermore, these software-only solutions are able to reduce the price points of HD video to only a few dollars per month – thus making high quality video affordable to most enterprises. (-) A downside of second generation products is the complicated server infrastructure.  For both Vidyo and Blue Jeans, video must first flow through a video server.

Third generation: products such as Skype, Tango, WebRTC/OpenTok, Hangouts, and VSee. (+) Third generation products eliminate the server infrastructure by using peer-to-peer video streaming. They will also be web-based, so making a call is as simple as clicking on a button on a web page.  Rising star, WebRTC, allows you to build video right into the browser. (-) The problem is WebRTC is only supported by browsers Google Chrome and Opera.  Since Google does not control 100% of the browser marketing share the adoption of WebRTC still remains to be seen, (Note: We list OpenTok as WebRTC because even though it currently uses Flash, it will be using WebRTC in the future.)

VSee, The WebRTC Alternative

An alternative to WebRTC is VSee.  VSee’s simple web API makes web calling trivial.  It does not require administrator permission to run (unlike Skype), thus a simple browser plugin is all that is required to start a VSee video call. Furthermore, VSee improves on the classic P2P approach of Skype and WebRTC by enforcing end-to-end encryption at 256-bit AES.  This not only makes VSee perfect for telemedicine, but also makes all VSee conversations private and off-the-record by default.

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