Category: Tips & Techniques

Inmarsat Partners with VSee for Telemedicine

Inmarsat, the multi-billion dollar innovative satellite company, has partnered with VSee to provide telemedicine in the world’s most difficult to reach places. VSee has used Inmarsat’s BGAN, a satellite terminal the size of a laptop, in numerous missions from Nigeria to Syria to Latin America.

Inmarsat has just published a case study of the VSee+Inmarsat telemedicine work in the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon – where we used vsee in numerous villages without electricity and only accessible by boat.

Inmarsat provided the satellite technology so that VSee’s doctor-in-a-box kits could transmit high-quality ultrasound images from the field to faraway doctors. Their BGAN network proved to be the perfect solution.

Now you can read a case study that follows VSee into Gabon, showing how Inmarsat puts its satellite network to work for humanitarian causes. This three-page case study is a quick and fascinating read.

Download the case study now.

VSee Tip #7 – VSee Recording Playback and Convert from MKV File

VSee saves recorded video as Matroska (.mkv) files. To play a file, you can use VLC media player for playing MKV files on both Windows and Mac.  You can also check out other some alternatives to VLC here.

Set up VLC to Play Videos Side-by-Side

recording playback VSee

VLC for Windows view

  1. Go to Tools->Preference
  2. Uncheck the boxes for
    • “Allow only one instance” and
    • “Use only one instance when started from file manager”
  3. Save the settings.  (This will allow you to launch more then one instance of VLC player so you can play multiple videos simultaneously.)

Playing Back Videos Side-by-Side

playing MKV files simultaneously

To play all videos at the same time, in the file manager, highlight all the videos to be played at the same time, then hit “Play.”

Converting Your MKV File for Editing

Special thanks to VSee user, Tony Dennis, Founder of Freedom Star Project for the following tip.

The program I found to convert MKV files at a decent quality is Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate

Also if the client needs to extract the audio from the video without any loss at all (MKV is just like a folder that combines the audio and video) this is the program: MKV Extract GUI

This will allow people to take the audio and edit in a separate program and add it back to the video with other video editing software.

To record your VSee call, check out our post on How to Record a VSee Session.

VSee – Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

Star Trek vintage

Guest Post – Anthony Watkins is Founder, Chairman and CEO of The Toney Watkins Company, a hospitality and entertainment company, currently developing international theme park resorts.

In early September of 1966, I sat with my brothers in front of our family’s television set watching this new show that was premiering on NBC called “Star Trek”.  I was immediately hooked.

More than anything, I was caught up in the technology of this new show – particularly, the Starship Enterprises’ two way video conference system. There stood Captain Pike (and later Captain Kirk) using this incredible wonder to communicate across space with Starfleet and other entities. From that point forward, I often dreamt about, searched for, and even at one point contemplated how could I create such a Star Trek video conferencing system. It’s now 2013, and I can truly say that I have finally found the “holy grail” of all video conferencing technologies.

Trapped by Skype and Other Inferior Video Conferencing Products?

For the past few years, like many businesses, our company has been using Skype Premium Services (Skype Group Video Calling, Skype Out, Skype Credits, etc.) simply because we didn’t have any better cost-effective choices.  We had tried a number other Skype alternatives such as ooVoo, Tokbox, etc—with none of them giving us what we needed.

In fact, I cannot count how many times we’ve had the video in the call freeze or dissipate, the audio fade out and never come back, or the call to simply drop all together.  We, for one, got tired of paying for these services while constantly having to tell whoever was on the other end to “Turn off your video to save bandwidth” only to have the audio portion of the call to sound like Alexander Graham Bell’s earliest attempts at a telephone. However, I’m glad to say that our company has finally been set free from the Skype video conference prison.

VSee – A Message in a Bottle

In early September of this year, I stumbled across an article comparing the various video systems out today and discovered VSee, a video chat tool for telehealth. I was so impressed with the video call quality that we are now 100% users of VSee and, in fact, we have become full-time “VSeevangelist’s.”

In addition to now being able to hold high quality individual and group video calls without worrying about the sound and video constantly breaking up, we have also been using VSee to share files, web links, as well as conduct collaborative discussions and make real time changes to architectural and engineering renderings.

Better Video Conferencing, Better Business

The following represents just a few of the uses by our company since learning of VSee three weeks ago.

  • On a recent 2 hour call, we connected our folks in Thailand, Australia and the U.S. with not so much as a hiccup. The video was smooth and clear (in default mode). All of the participants commented on how well the audio sounded.  What little degradation there was occurred in the audio stream but it was so minor that it was hardly noticeable. During this particular call we also used the drag and drop exchange of files feature as well as copying and pasting of multiple web links in the Instant Message (IM) window for web sites that we wanted to review or share.
  • To coordinate architectural site plan with our Korea office, VSee allowed us to not only review the plan and comment on it in real time, but saved us time from having to email it and wait on comments. The IM feature allowed the participants to clarify questions and comments that they did not want everyone else to see.
  • This past weekend, I was able to introduce VSee to one of our Board members who happens to be a retired computer industry executive. Ironically, his name is Veasey and it is actually pronounced “VSee”. We both got a kick out of that. His parting words to me as we ended the video conference was “Thanks for introducing me to this technology.”
  • On a call just today, one of our executives in South Africa (on a Mac laptop) could not stop raving about the clarity of the picture and high quality audio. When I told him that VSee also offered the capability to switch to 480p and even 720p, I thought he was going to pass out from the excitement.
  • On a personal note, early this year, my youngest daughter had moved into a loft in a city about 5 hours away. I have not had time to visit her yet so I convinced her to install VSee and kick Skype to the curb. She then took me on a tour of her loft by walking around with her laptop. I could not believe the clarity of the picture. This clearly blew anything that a real estate company could do as she was able to provide commentary on all of the nuances of her new digs.

The Toney Watkins Company Future is Bright Thanks to VSee

VSee is clearly major disruptor in the video conferencing space, especially for companies like ours that conduct business on a global scale.  Add to that the built in security and potential for future enhancements to the product (hopefully the developers will soon include VoIP telephone), and it is hands down the best video conferencing product available. In fact, I cannot see why anyone in their right mind would not want to have VSee installed on all their computer, phone, tablet, phablet, etc.

Of the 100 invites that I have sent out over the past 3 weeks, 34 have already joined VSee, and to a person, they have each exhibited amazement at how well this product works compared to the competition.

I have also started planning with our architects about how we could deploy VSee in the design of our hotels and hotel rooms, our customer service Kiosks and our 44 passenger motor coaches. For us, the future is now!

All I can say to Dr. Milton Chen and the entire VSee staff is that you have truly developed a world class product. May you “Live long and prosper!”

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photo credit: Joe Haupty via Flickr

7 Best Webcams for Video Calling

We have tested a wide variety of cameras with VSee, and pretty much anything that works with Windows DirectShow will give you a satisfactory experience, but a few webcams really stand out for video calling with their superior image quality due to superior optics and optical auto-focus.

Logitech hd pro C9201.  For general usage, we recommend the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920.  It has the all-important mechanical auto-focus and runs $75-$100. It can also work for telemedicine, like this cost-effective VSee-Intermountain tele-NICU setup using 3 Logitech C920 webcams. Ubergizmo has an excellent review of the C920 with pictures comparing the video quality of several other popular Logitech webcams –  Pro 9000, C910, and C920. 

Logitech webcam Pro 9000

2. If you’re on a tighter budget, the older Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 (at 2 MP video resolution) is still a good camera. It has a bracket that will fit over the top of most monitors, a long USB cable that will reach the computer under your desk.  These days, you can easily find one around $50 on Amazon.

Logitech QuickCam Pro Notebooks

Logitech QuickCam Pro Notebooks

3. If you are using a laptop or notebook computer that doesn’t come with a built-in webcam, if you want a higher quality image than most laptops provide, or if you just want a second video feed to use with VSee’s auxiliary camera feature, you may want something smaller that will clip on the somewhat thinner laptop screen. Fortunately, Logitech squeezes the same optics and electronics from the 9000, including auto-focus, into a smaller package, the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, (also sold as the Webcam C905) for $75 – $100.   Warning: Logitech frequently revises its naming scheme. Do not confuse the QuickCam Pro for Notesbooks with the older, inferior, QuickCam for Notebooks Pro.

Logitech HD webcam C930e4. For a little bit more money, the Logitech Webcam C930e (~$130) for businesses is an excellent webcam that gives you a really spectacular, smooth HD video experience. It’s a nice choice for telemedicine with its wide 90-degree diagonal field of view and Pan-Tilt-Zoom. (However, the C920 can be adequate, too. )

Logitech Orbit AF

Orbit AF

5. The Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF puts a quality camera on top of a stick with remote control pan and tilt.  However, we do not recommend this camera for medical or telemedicine purposes. With VSee you can click on the other person’s picture and make their camera move (support for this feature requires a VSee Exam Station ($299/mo) license.  The zoom, alas, is not optical, so as you zoom in you won’t necessarily see any more detail.

6.  Its cousin, the newer Logitech BCC950 Conference Cam also has a 9″ stick mount for eye-level video conferencing.

Logitech webcam bcc950 conference cam

It’s designed for group conferencing and has built-in omni-directional speaker phones, remote control, and 8 feet of cord length compared with the Orbit’s 6 feet. It makes nice (inexpensive) choice for room video conference calls where it can be put on the table and moved around to bring the camera closer to people’s faces. I’ve seen this camera for as low as $188, although it more typically runs around $250. Tom Keating at TMCnet did a thorough review of the BCC950. Unfortunately VSee does not support remote PTZ control for the BCC950. 

(Please see below for supported PTZ cameras or contact if you have questions.)

Microsoft LifeCam Cinema7. Microsoft is also in the camera business. While we’ve really liked the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema in the past, we’ve found over time that its video performance has not been consistent and its driver a bit bloated. It also claims to put out HD video at 30 fps although I couldn’t get it to go over 15 fps at 720p.  However, even at that setting the video was stunning.

PTZ Cameras for Telemedicine & Telepresence Conference Rooms

VSee Minnray PTZ camera

Minrray 820-usb3

Finally, if you are building out telemedicine exam rooms or a telepresence conference room and cost is no object, you should look into one of these cameras:

The first two units  start around 1,500 – 2,000 US dollars. At this price point you get really high quality optics and mechanical zoom as well as pan-tilt.

What’s nice about the Minrray and Logitech cameras is that they are both USB 3.0 devices which makes for a super simple plug-and-play set up. The Logitech is a much flimsier camera about half the size of the others, and it’s motor is a bit loud though the pan-tilt-zoom is still smooth.

The GlobalMed camera is an analog camera. This means a fairly complicated setup that requires you to use the video capture device that Globalmed provides with it.

**Only the VSee customized version of the Minrray PTZ works with VSee. If you get a non-customized Minrray, you will have aspect ratio issues.

For more information about VSee telepresence system,  to see VSee’s remote PTZ feature in action, or to purchase a customized Minrray for VSee, please contact sales.

If you don’t have VSee, get it free here.

Article first posted December, 2009. Updated February 15, 2016.

Four Crazy Tips For Creating Effective Remote Teams

extreme teamwork rodeo bull

Virtual teams are a very different breed of animal from traditional office teams. So it stands to reason that creating a virtual team with the same level of rapport and efficacy requires different measures or as iDoneThis CEO Walter Chen believes, it requires “extreme measures.” Here are his 4 extreme habits (via Jeff Haden and that will help you ensure success in your distributed team:

1. Share everything about yourself with your team.

When you’re co-located with your team you gain an incredible wealth of contextual information about your teammates just by being around them. While those details may seem superfluous or trivial, that richness of context breeds trust.

Drs. Pamela Hinds and Catherine Cramton’s research on virtual teams found that seeing how someone works in their context makes a huge difference in “greasing” the team wheels. VSee does this with virtual Daily Stand Ups. The Buffer team does this is by sending everyone home with a Jawbone UP that shares daily eat, sleep, exercise habits and having team members post what they’ve accomplished and what they plan to accomplish every single day.

2. Turn your webcam on–and leave it on all day.

How many times have you missed opportunities for spontaneous face-to-face virtual calls because you just didn’t feel like clicking that Skype, VSee, or Google video call button? Forget about making the effort to schedule a video chat. These are missed chances for serendipitous collaboration. Companies like Xerox-PARC and FourSquare make virtual face-to-face easy by having a all day video port hole in a main part of the office. This allows people from different offices to spontaneously say hello and have those important casual watercooler chats. You can set one up using VSee without any expensive Cisco videoconferencing equipment.

3. Wake up at 3 a.m. every morning.

Walter is serious about this one. Working in different time zones can really kill a team, especially if they have never met in person. The biggest problem he says are the “small frustrations and setbacks” that “accumulate and become hugely demoralizing.” With different time zones, a 2 minute answer can easily turn into a 2 day answer. This quickly builds up mistrust, a sense that the other party is unreliable, and delays to a project. In an Open Letter to Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, VSee’s Milton recommends having at least a 50% overlap in virtual team members’ work times. If you’re extreme, do like Walter suggests and go for the 100%.

4. Overcommunicate, overcommunicate, and overcommunicate some more.

When you work in a virtual team you lose the primary way you have communicated with people your whole life: face-to-face conversations. Without face-to-face access, communication often flags, creating inefficiencies or, worse, loneliness and disengagement.

The key takeaway here is don’t be an email-only communicator. Email is the lazy man’s way to communicate.  It’s easy, convenient, and non-disruptive, but it’s also the kiss of death for remote teams. It simply isn’t an effective collaboration tool on its own. In fact, the best communicators use multiple media channels to communicate the same message to their teammates. With so many collaboration apps these days, Walter encourages going crazy with the apps — the more communication tools your team uses, the merrier. At VSee, some of the tools we use are Chatter for watercooler talk, VSee video for group meetings and one-on-one video chats, IM for quick questions, and Asana for tracking group tasks. Of course, using the right communication tools for what you’re doing is also important. For example, making group decisions over email is a big no-no. However, that’s a discussion we’ll save for another post.

What are your crazy tips for improving remote teamworking?

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photo courtesy: Roy Montgomery via Flickr