Intelligent Video Conferencing



It is ironic that the more technology we, as a society, create and use to simplify our lives, the more we become bogged down by its complications, peculiarities, and bugs. This seems to have been the case for the lower end videoconferencing systems. Tied down to the field of view of the camera being used, the users of these systems are forced to sit in front of the terminal and try to communicate in this contrived, unnatural and certainly uncomfortable environment. There is no doubt that the most effective communication occurs between individuals who are near each other. It is in this environment where body language, mannerisms, use of visual aids, and spontaneity supplement, if not underscore the message being communicated. Herein lies the vision of the I.V.C. project: to develop a cost-effective, easy to use, "technology transparent" communications tool.

Technology transparent is the term used to define the lack of complicated interfaces, procedures and skills needed to operate this system. The ultimate goal is to make the technology a "second nature" background process, allowing the user to use all of his/her resources into communicating effectively. This admittedly ambitious goal, which would require advances in the audio/visual quality of the I.V.C. supported product and the underlying network technology, would bring budget videoconferencing out of the "novelty" stage to the profitable consumer marketing stage.

The I.V.C. project is intended to be the first stepping stone to this goal. It has as its aim to deliver within a 6 to 7 month time frame, a functional, two way, videoconferencing prototype. The end product will be a hardware/software package with the intent of demonstrating the feasibility of a full-blown system. To this end, the hardware will mainly consist of Motorola's MC68HC11 evaluation board, a breadboard with some necessary interfacing hardware, the mechanical assembly which will be built to house and move the Quickcam, and the user's transmitter pack. The software will be run through the user's choice of Web browsers (i.e. Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer). The user's PC will be connected to the Quickcam and necessary hardware via the parallel port. Thus, the end product will be a functional system in prototype form. Because of this target, the Motorola evaluation board is quite ideal. It allows for easy interfacing, code uploading and system debugging through its monitor program. Finally, the breadboard will interface with the evaluation board's connector and the three receiving transducers, which will be placed on the Quickcam via a custom built connector.

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