Collaboration Summit Announcements–IX5000 & Project Squared

You may have noticed last week a bunch of announcements coming from Cisco during our Collaboration Summit.The major ones were the release of Project Squared (which includes the partnership with Box) and also our new immersive system the IX5000. Below is a small collection of a few resources from that event as well as an interesting video of a WebRTC call from Project Squared running in a browser to a DX80 video endpoint transcoding free.

If your interested in trying out Project Squared you can sign up for free and start collaborating right here : https://www.webex.com/projectsquared/ . You can currently get to Project Squared through a Web browser or apps running on iOS, Android and MAC with Windows coming in December (date is public from Project Squared website).

http://blogs.cisco.com/collaboration/industry-first-h-264-video-endpoint-calls-firefox-via-webrtc-enabled-project-squared

http://blogs.cisco.com/collaboration/what-is-the-cisco-collaboration-cloud

http://blogs.cisco.com/collaboration/ix5000-launch

http://developers.blog.box.com/2014/11/17/project-squared-box-view/

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Updated with QR codes: Creating a TelePresence Background That’s More Than a Pretty Picture

A couple of people have asked about what to use as a background screen for their TelePresence endpoints from my “So you want to deploy UC?” post. It’s a great idea to use this real estate to educate users and give helpful tips. Unfortunately the idea for doing this is one I borrowed from a colleague but I think heard someone say once the best ideas are borrowed/stolen. Anyway.
Below are a couple of different versions of the same thing just updated depending of the version of TC software your using on a Cisco TelePresence endpoint. I actually did this in PowerPoint and then saved them as a JPG. I used the Web UI o the codec to get screenshots of my touch panel. Taking screenshots of your touch panel varies depending on your software version your running so take a look at my blog post on the subject to learn more.
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Once you have created your master piece then its just a matter of uploading it to the TelePresence codec. Something I have noticed is that depending on how you create and save the image does affect how it looks once you get it on the screen. Just make sure to keep the image quality good.
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As versions change this is something you will want to stay on top of though and make sure your background is still relevant to the version of software your running on your codec.
Update, Adding QR Codes : Again another good idea from a smart friend. I basically don’t think of anything myself any more. Adding a QR code is great way to add a touch of BYOD to your background with a link to internal or external help for video users. Creating a QR code is dead simple and makes it super simple for users walking in with BYOD to get to stuff.
Creating a QR code blog: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29449/How-to-Create-a-QR-Code-in-4-Quick-Steps.aspx
imageI used http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ to create a QR code because its free for the static service but they have more advance features to track usage if you want to pay for their service. This just links to http://voipnorm.blogspot.com but it can be any website.imageA great example of using a QR code is linking it to a complimentary application that users can use on their BYOD device with a video endpoint. The one to the right is for Cisco Proximity on iTunes. A really simple idea that users will like. Of curse if you worried about the URL changing you can also make dynamic QR codes where the URL can be updated but the code stays the same.
Here is what it can look like:
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If you would like a copy of the background PPT you can get it from here.
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Device Review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro Wireless Headphones + Mic

imageAfter reviewing Jabra Evolve 80 headset last week, Plantronics makes a come back this week with the BackBeat Pro. While the Evolve 80 is somewhat of a blended consumer/UC headset the BackBeat Pro as the name implies is all about music with UC a far second. Although the focus of the BackBeat Pro is the consumer market its worthy of a review because it does have some great features. It may not have UC specific features but with tradeoffs in other areas it still makes a great headset.

In reviewing the BackBeat Pro I went and had a look at some other reviews on the Plantronics website. I was not surprised that it rated pretty highly among consumers because of two reasons:

    1. The battery life for a Bluetooth device is nothing but amazing. After the initial charge and heavy music use I have yet to recharge the device. Its supposed to have up to 24 hours of continuous music streaming and I don’t doubt this claim one bit. I have used it on and off over a number of days and it has held it charge and performed well paired with my MacBook pro.
    2. The sound quality for a Bluetooth device is fantastic. My 90’s hair and speed metal collection never sounded so good.I am listening to Metallica Master of Puppets as I write this blog post on them. The Active Noise Cancellation is also excellent. I can honestly say my wife has never had a harder time trying to get my attention when I am in my office with these babies on. I thought using Bluetooth may have caused audio quality issues but that is far from reality. They worked the same either plugged in with the 3.5mm cable or over Bluetooth.

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The headset also comes nicely packaged with a nice storage case. It’s a pretty significant investment of around $250 for a headset so its nice that it comes with a case to protect it. There is also has a USB cable and a standard 3.5mm cable. The USB cable is only for charging and updating the device. I like the fact you can update the device software and turn features on and off with it. A Mac version of the update software would go a long way. Especially considering the popularity of Apple devices among the devices target audience age group which is probably the 30 and under.

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Another area the Plantronics has done a nice job is in the use sensor capabilities. As an example when I put the device down it automatically pauses my music or when I pick it up it answers a call when paired with a cell phone. Its great to see headset manufactures thinking about the end user experience. Even software updates on this device were pretty simple. The Plantronics website did a good job of guiding me through the process to get the latest software on my device. 

There are a lot of positives about this device and so far I have only found one major detractor. There are basically no UC focused features. Yes, it will work with your favorite softphone application to make calls because it has a microphone but that’s basically about it.Most advanced call control features are not there. Although Mac compatibility will vary by softphone anyway depending on API availability, Windows it’s a big miss. In comparison to the Evolve 80 which has really thought through the UC experience the BackBeat Pro really misses in this area. In saying that people might be attracted to the Bluetooth capability and over look the lack of UC features and just make do with what it has to offer. Hopefully this might be something Plantronics expands on down the road with a software update.

The big positives for the BackBeat Pro are sound quality, Bluetooth with NFC, ANC, Use Sensors  and battery life. The only negatives are from a UC perspective with the lack of integration into your favorite Windows or Mac UC application. Despite the BackBeat Pro’s tradeoffs its still a great headset that I have enjoyed using, now back to Metallica…

Master
Master of puppets I'm pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams ……

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Device Review: Jabra Evolve 80 UC Stereo Headset

imageIts been a while since I have done a device review and to be frank I haven’t been watching this space real close of late either. My interest was peaked a week or so ago when I saw a tweet from Jabra for the Evolve 80 and subsequently saw one in the flesh  not long after. This isn't your average UC headset that’s for sure . It is great to see Jabra blurring the boundaries between enterprise and consumer markets. With the growing popularity of the Beats by Dr. Dre (may be its just in the NFL, sorry Bose) it seemed like Jabra was just trying to get in on the bandwagon. After spending a little time with the headset I think they have done enough to offer some unique features that make it a little more cube and UC friendly versus just a great audio headset that just happens to be able to work with a UC client.
I never thought of adding some of the new trends in active noise cancelation to UC/voice headsets but its kind of obvious now that I have tried it. Only the Evolve 80 boasts active noise cancellation in the Evolve product line. The other headsets in this line have passive noise cancellation. Its been proven that ANC can have a positive effect on concentration by removing distracting noise so it makes sense that using them in a cubical environment could have some benefits to the wearer. I can’t say that I have conducted any precise experiments to see if there is any real credence to this but after being on calls both video and audio only it does seems easier to stay focused. Of course Jabra is using this with their  “Reclaim the Workspace” marketing along with some other unique features of the headset.
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One of the features of this headset I seem to be using a lot is the ability to disconnect the USB dongle and use the headset as a more straight forward audio headset with the 3.5 mm jack. It really makes the headset much more versatile. The call control functions work for both Jabber and the DX series of endpoints.
So far I have been using this headset with my DX80 and Jabber on my PC via USB and listening to music on my MAC using the 3.5 mm jack. While the DX80 has some great audio capabilities to limit distracting calls using intelligent audio technology, that technology only works for the receiver and the sender still has to deal with the noise surrounding them. The Evolve 80  really helps limit that outside noise distraction with the ANC. Finally a way to cut out my 5 barking dogs when the mail man comes to the door. That’s right, 5 dogs.
One other feature I think that is worth calling out is the call presence indicator on ear imagepiece. Although integrating a call indicator into a headset is not new the way Jabra has done it makes it much more obvious than other attempts I have seen to date. You can also manually turn this on. Sort of takes Do Not Disturb (DND) to a whole new personal level.
The only negative I have found so far is limited to the size of the headset. It does take some getting used to for sure.If your used to a super light headset then this will feel heavy in comparison. I am a big user of double ear headsets for UC so wearing a headset that covers both ears wasn’t a big change for me but others may prefer the more slender and single ear models of the Evolve series which BTW probably also weigh less. The 80 also covers the whole ear which some people may not like. I personally think its great. I can’t wait to try it out in a cube environment and make my fellow Cisco employees jealous of my inner silence:)
Lastly, keep in mind this is a super sturdy headset that is made to be high quality both of build and sound quality and the cost reflects that (around $250-300). But as a wise man once told me you get what you pay for and if your wearing a headset 4-5 hours a day the higher cost is well worth it. I have used headsets that sit on the ear versus around that after a certain amount of time can be painful to wear after prolonged use. The 80 does help with this by surrounding the ear and not on the ear.
So if you get a chance to try out the Evolve 80 it is well worth it. Just remember its not your average UC headset.
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