New Video Conferencing Services and Improvements

2012 - The Year of Videoconferencing

OK, maybe too grandiose, but between technology/usability improvements, new products, travel budget pressures, and sustainability goals, things seem like they’re at a real turning point with videoconferencing. IT is excited to announce four new services around videoconferencing (with three products you can try out now.)

1. Lifesize Stream (lifestream.lbl.gov)
Want to share a seminar talk with a wider audience, or invite folks working at offsite locations to attend a meeting? Now you can live stream and/or record from any conference room with a Lifesize video conferencing unit (LBL standard for the past few years). For now, you’ll need to contact the helpdesk to initiate the stream, but eventually you’ll be able to initiate the stream yourself from your laptop - and in some rooms, directly from the lifesize unit. This service is something we own, so it’s beta in the sense that we’re still learning the ins and outs, but it’s not going anywhere - we used it this morning to broadcast the second campus announcement. To try it out, contact the helpdesk http://help.lbl.gov/ with information about which lifesize unit you'll be streaming from. Go to lifestream.lbl.gov to see what the quality is like.

2. BlueJeans
Have you ever wanted to attend a videoconference from your computer, or wanted to invite someone to participate in a room based videoconference, but couldn’t get it to work? The folks at Bluejeans have figured out how to connect Room Based Videoconferencing to Skype Video Chat, and Google Video Chat. Since everyone at LBL has a Google Video Chat account (associated with their LBL Google identity) this means you can attend room based video-conferences right from with gmail. You can also invite your colleagues to attend via Skype/Google, or phone. With BlueJeans, you’ll need to set up the meeting and invite people using an invitation email (similar to readytalk). The first time you use it on Skype or Google, you’ll need to follow their instructions and complete one or two straightforward steps. Personally, I haven’t been as excited about a service in a long time - for years, I’ve been flabbergasted that Video/IM services on the desktop didn’t seamlessly interoperate with these expensive room based units - bluejeans (mostly) makes this happen. We’ve purchased a test license for unlimited use of this service for the next six months, so we need your feedback on how you like it. To register for an account, just contact the helpdesk at help.lbl.gov

3. Google Hangouts
Those of you who follow our various tester products with Google know that we’ve had access to Google Meetings for awhile now. Google Hangouts and Hangouts Plus Extras are now available publicly, so you can invite people outside the domain to participate. Google Hangouts gives you the ability to have up to 8 video chat participants and share your screen. With extras, you’ll also get access to shared notes and sketchpad. In theory, you can also attend from your Android or IOS device, but at least on the latter, our Google Apps accounts don’t work quite yet. To try either one out, start out logged in to your gmail and then go to plus.google.com. You’ll need to provide a birthday - it doesn’t matter what you put in, but the age must be above 13 or you’ll get locked out. Then click on hangouts on the right hand side.

4. Improved Support
We’ve always had great folks in IT who could help you spec a video conferencing setup or provide support to your call. We’re in the process of expanding this support in two important ways. First, our folks at the helpdesk are getting up to speed on the room based video units, so soon you'll be able to call and get first tier support. Second, you’ll soon be able to opt-in your lifesize unit for ongoing troubleshooting, support, and upgrades from our staff at no charge. If you have a current lifesize unit, please get in touch with collaborate@lbl.gov to learn more.

But wait, there’s more!

Our colleagues at ESnet have a number of initiatives in progress to improve the video conferencing experience. In addition, most of the folks at DOE HQ now have access to modern videoconferencing equipment too. In the coming weeks, IT will share more about these developments too.

More info on all these at: http://go.lbl.gov/videoconferencing

We want your feedback on these services so please get in touch with collaborate@lbl.gov if you have anything to share.

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