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Polycom Adds Smartphone-Like Interface to Telepresence

Telepresence, or immersive high-definition video conferencing, is often considered a higher-end service and therefore, a bit complex in its user interface — a potential gating factor for the technology. Polycom Inc.aims to lower the barrier with a touchscreen control device that’s meant to mimic a smartphone or MP3 player experience.

Polycom Touch Control is meant to shorten the learning curve for new telepresence room users by simplifying how they find colleagues, place calls, share content and access features with an easy-to-use touchscreen, which will be commercially available in the fourth quarter through the Polycom indirect channel.

“The Polycom Touch Control addresses a long-standing issue within the conferencing industry — the inadequacy of the handheld remote control,” said Ira Weinstein, analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research. “For many casual users, video conferencing remotes have too many buttons and offer too many functions. On the other hand, for many super-users and administrators, the remotes are missing key features and capabilities. By leveraging the power of a leading mobile platform and user interface design techniques from the mobile phone industry, Polycom was able to create a flexible, configurable remote suitable for users of every level.”

The device’s seven-inch color screen allows users with any level of experience to easily navigate key functions, from basic dialing and content sharing, to advanced features using finger gestures to touch and slide universally recognizable icons and navigate intuitive arrows and tabs. The graphical interface lets users locate contacts and dial video calls using a corporate directory, local address book or presence-enabled contact list.

The Polycom Touch Control also makes it easy for anyone (even visitors without network access) to share content during a video call or to present content using the room’s audio/visual systems during a non-video meeting. Multiple content sharing methods are available with Touch Control to allow users to quickly and easily share content using the integrated USB ports.

It also integrates with unified communications solutions by allowing users to launch video calls within the UC applications of Polycom Open Collaboration Network partners. For example, leveraging the Polycom Conference for Outlook integration, the Polycom Touch Control can display the Microsoft Outlook meeting calendar for a room or user and allow participants to join a meeting using telepresence by simply tapping the “join now” button on the screen.

“Simplifying the user experience is a key differentiator for Polycom and one that we are leading in a number of ways, from video-enabling applications people use every day like Microsoft Outlook, to delivering a more intuitive interface like the Polycom Touch Control,” said Joe Sigrist, senior vice president and general manager of visual communications at Polycom, in a statement. “Historically, the remote control was the front line for the user experience. The Polycom Touch Control is a revolutionary interface for telepresence and video conferencing that our beta testers quickly embraced and unanimously love.”

In addition to simplifying the experience for users, the Polycom Touch Control is an intuitive interface for IT administrators, who can easily access system settings and in future software releases access other Polycom solutions such as the RSS 2000 and 4000 servers and Polycom SoundStructure installed-room audio systems. The Polycom Touch Control devices can also be centrally managed using the Polycom Converged Management Application.


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