Dynamic media control technology enhances your video conference experience. This technology controls quality of the media, including video, audio, and shared PC screen, according to the network bandwidth of the operating environment in real time; it delivers the best possible quality under individual circumstances. The technology keeps your visual communication comfortable in multi-varied situations.
Ricoh’s goal is to provide customers with comfortable visual communications (VC) in multi-varied communications environments via its original video conference system ? the RICOH Unified Communication System (RICOH UCS). The effort involves many approaches. Ensuring VC quality is one of the approaches toward enhancing value to customers.
Unlike conventional video conference systems, the RICOH UCS offers a high degree of freedom in terms of location; it does not require dedicated rooms or a dedicated network. The RICOH UCS is a cloud-based service, so it easily enables video conferences among different companies. To offer a high degree of freedom in terms of location, the system must be able to run in a wide range of environments where network conditions and surrounding noise vary. In any environment, the system has to guarantee image quality, clear voice, lip-sync (synchronization between audio and video), and avoid delays. The path to achieving this has been a technical challenge.
For instance, in a wireless network, the bandwidth available to the RICOH UCS can be very narrow or suffer significant fluctuations depending on radio conditions. To guarantee the highest possible VC quality under such environments, the RICOH UCS controls the media in real time.
|Audio||Uninterrupted audio with low levels of noise|
|Video||Video whose delay is below the threshold|
|Shared PC screen||The same image quality as the original|
Table 1: Target quality for the media
The RICOH UCS is primarily intended for casual and open-minded talks between people acting as points of contact. Ricoh considers that, in such a situation, providing ease of talking as a value improves work efficiency and intellectual productivity of the customer. The quality targets set forth in Table 1 reflect the results of Ricoh's VC quality evaluation regarding ease of talking .
Audio is said to be the most important factor in implementing ease of talking , and video constitutes supplementary information for the conversation. Video is the medium for non-verbal communication, comprising facial expressions, eyes, and gestures.
If the available bandwidth is narrow as described above, the role of video is to convey supplementary information for the conversation; for instance, it clarifies who is talking or when one should start talking. Based on that idea, when the bandwidth is narrow the RICOH UCS uses low-quality video with short delays instead of high-quality video with long delays. In a severer network environment where it is hard to send even low-quality video, the RICOH UCS dynamically switches over to audio-only communication to guarantee at least minimal communication.
To provide customers with comfortable VC in their specific situations and environments, Ricoh has been conducting fundamental research under many other themes, including the mechanism to detect network bandwidth accurately, the optimal encoding technology for specific types of content, and the influence of transmission delays on VC quality. Research results are quickly incorporated into products in an effort to continue improvement.
In the past, the media control technology for video conference systems had the following issues, which hindered comfortable VC:
(1) Talk collisions
If the system cannot cope with fluctuations in the network bandwidth, voice is sent in a delayed fashion. Because of the delays, people fail to recognize who will speak next and when they will start speaking ? and two or more people tend to start speaking at the same time. This is called a talk collision. Talk collisions interrupt conversations, stressing the participants who are trying to let others go ahead and put the conversation back on the right track.
Figure1 : People troubled by a talk collision
(2) Low simultaneity of PC screen sharing
Sharing a PC screen means to send desktop components of a PC, such as a PowerPoint window or a movie window, via a video conference system and share them with other participants. A change in the window causes an instant increase in the amount of data sent. This occurs when a page is flipped on a PowerPoint slide for instance. If the network bandwidth is too narrow for the amount of the data being sent, a delay occurs and simultaneity is lost. This hinders communication.
Figure2: People confused as the presenter starts speaking without the shared PC screen being displayed
Addressing the above issues, Ricoh has developed a dynamic media control technology with the following features:
(1) Improved audio simultaneity
As a result of VC quality evaluation, Ricoh found that delay in audio is the primary cause of low VC quality. Audio, video, and shared PC screen are now given the target qualities listed in Table 1 and are controlled in real time. These and other improvements now ensure audio simultaneity, suppressing talk collisions, thereby making it easy to talk.
Figure3: People talking smoothly without talk collisions
(2) Improved PC screen sharing simultaneity
The new technology suppresses the amount of data more powerfully than before; even when the input video undergoes a significant change, the technology prevents the amount of data to be transmitted from becoming too large. This improves the simultaneity of PC screen sharing, smoothing communication.
With these technologies, the RICOH UCS has greatly improved ease of talking in a video conference.
Ricoh will continue to pursue ease of talking with the goal of delivering comfortable VC in all the communications environments customers use.