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Polycom RealPresence endpoints, features keep the user in mind

At the Workplace of the Future event, Polycom highlighted its latest product for small-room and desktop videoconferencing. Polycom RealPresence Convene competes with the Cisco Telepresence EX Series.

NEW YORK CITY -- Polycom's latest videoconferencing system is packed in an easy-to-setup monitor built for joining meetings from a small conference room or office desktop.

The company showed off Polycom RealPresence Group Convene last week at the vendor's New York City office. Billed as the Workplace of the Future, the event had reporters, executives and customers in London and New York. Customers joining the meeting were from education, healthcare, energy and government.

Polycom's overall videoconferencing strategy is to deliver products that let employees join meetings from any location.

"We have to create [products] that can work across modern workspaces, like the home or on the road," said Ashan Willy, Polycom's senior vice president of product management. "We have to solve for natural issues, like noise, lighting, distractions and privacy."

Convene can be used in single monitor mode for videoconferencing only, or the screen can be divided into two for content sharing on one side. The unit can be placed on a desktop or mounted on a wall. The system requires only a power outlet and Internet connection.

Convene competes with Cisco's Telepresence EX series, as well as its DX 70 and 80 standalone video products.

The Polycom device works with the company's recently introduced RealPresence Group 310 videoconferencing engine. The company plans to eventually release a common interface for all RealPresence products, said Michael Rose, senior director of marketing for Polycom.

Features Polycom claims are unique to the RealPresence systems include the EagleEye Producer camera and audio enhancers called the Acoustic Bubble and NoiseBlock.

EagleEye is comprised of two cameras. One stays focused on the entire conference room, while the other follows and zooms in on any activity, such as a speaker moving around the room.

Acoustic Bubble establishes a perimeter around the system's microphone. Only people talking or making noise within the area is broadcast to members of the meeting. All other noise is muted. The Acoustic Bubble software will soon be available for laptops, tablets and smartphones used to join meetings.

NoiseBlock automatically turns on the microphone of a speaker, while turning off those of other participants. Polycom demonstrated the feature by having a remote employee come in over videoconferencing and speak, then stop to open and eat from a bag of chips. The latter was seen, but not heard, by the people in New York.

Polycom RealPresence for patient care

Customers at the event included the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (DMH). The agency has been using RealPresence since 2010 to let the state's 21 hospitals collaborate on the evaluation and treatment of mental health patients.

Psychiatrists can zoom in on a patient's face for a better view of ticks or erratic behavior. "It's better than a hands-on experience," said Ed Spencer, director of the state's Tele-Psychiatry Consultation Program.

The program has reduced the cost of treatment per patient by $1,800, said Spencer. In addition, people living in rural areas can go to the closest hospital for help. They are also more likely to keep up with their treatment.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, senior news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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