Emory Report

March 16, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 24

Technology Source

ITD provides full videoconferencing capabilities at Cox Hall

Remember when Alexander Graham Bell introduced us to the telephone in 1876? Probably not, but we would all agree that our lives haven't been the same since. Inventions conceived and implemented since that time have changed the very fabric of society. The way we communicate continues to evolve at a rapid pace. The "who, what, where and when" are still up to you; it's the "how" that creates alternatives not available before.

While nothing can ever replace a handshake, there are times when being "in person" simply is not feasible. Apart from the slightly unnerving feeling you get while "on television," videoconferencing is an excellent adventure into communications as even Bell envisioned it.

We are not yet at the point where we can "beam" anyone up, but the latest in connectivity gives you the opportunity to "be there" without physically relocating to a distant site. Video technology, combined with the link of telecommunications, has resulted in great success at meeting the world without leaving the workplace. Videoconferencing allows groups of people in different locations to hold interactive meetings. The capability has been available for some time, but the popularity has been limited due to cost, equipment limitations and usage factors. University and corporate groups have recognized its tremendous potential, and the number of locations where videoconferencing equipment is operating have increased tenfold as a result. Emory is now able to link with a vast number of locations on an international basis.

The interaction that videoconferencing permits is extensive; it can accommodate additional equipment needed for the conference itself. This includes visual aids such as overhead projectors, 35mm slides, whiteboards, document cameras, auxiliary cameras and VCRs. In addition, up to five sites can be linked by audio and video.

In Telecommunications on Cox Hall's third floor, Emory has an excellent videoconferencing facility. There's a MediaMax system with an Ascend IMUX and a V-TEL codec. The system can operate at bandwidths from 112 to 384, and we are able to customize that bandwidth and extend its capability further, as needed. The system has been used for a wide variety of needs: dissertations, medical conferences, surgical demonstrations, seminars, job interviews, even training. It allows both parties the opportunity for discussion in a relaxed environment that does not require an extensive amount of time and travel.

Reservations for videoconferencing should be made at least a week in advance to allow for test calling and room availability. International connections require 10 days advance notice when possible; however, every effort is made to accommodate last-minute requests. We have had conferences with institutions such as Yale and Oxford universities, University of California, Berkeley and MIT. We have connected internationally with Denmark, England and South Africa. We have successfully incorporated all the visual aids available and can customize arrangements. The response of those who have taken advantage of our facilities has been very positive.

Teleconferencing affords a marvelous opportunity to exchange information on a personal level without ever leaving the campus. Besides, everyone should know what it feels like to be on TV.

Dawn Francis-Chewning is telecommunications coordinator/analyst in Information Technology Division.

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