H.323 Video Conference Link:
Because of the number of cameras, mics and projectors in use, best results are achieved between Access Grid sites. However, it is possible for an Access Grid site to connect to a video-conferencing site using H.323 protocol.
There are limitations; the video-conference site has to be called up by the Access Grid site, and is limited to one camera from the video-conference site.
Also, depending on the set-up at the video-conference site, incoming camera signals may be limited to one – although it is possible for the Access Grid technician to toggle between cameras to switch from one camera to another if, for example, the speaker is not in shot.
Access Grid use is achieved by inSORS (Chicago)-installed equipment consisting of an IG Cube (computer and echo cancelling devise), 3 data projectors, 4 microphones, 2 speakers and a projection wall.
Alternative to the Access Grid Room:
The Access Grid facility works well with both individuals and groups. For individuals, there is an alternative; a Personal Interface to the Grid, or PIG.
This merely consists of a computer with Access Grid software plus webcam and headsets, and can be used in any room with good network connections.
Computer specifications are: Pentium 4, with a 1gig clock speed and 512mb of RAM - although, computers with lesser specifications will also work.
Given that a good computer is available for use, costs of webcam and headsets are small. inSORS software is, however, expensive -£600
The PIG is ideal for one person, and can work well with two people. It also allows more freedom in use. Meetings can be arranged at much shorter notice, particularly if it is a one-to-one meeting. There is also no need to get a room booked either.
In addition to the details about venues and testing, if it is intended to use any form of presentation e.g. PowerPoint, or share data between venues, this should be made known, and the appropriate files should reach the operator 2 days in advance of the meeting to ensure they are loaded and ready to use. Also, if the meeting is a formal one, and there is an agenda, this should be provided so the operator knows the order of any individual presentations.
Also, when booking the room, ensure that other colleagues book their own rooms.
One of the Access Grid's advantages (over video-conferencing) is in its degree of flexibility in how the video images are presented, as well as in the degree of control of cameras during a meeting. In addition, it has the ability to transfer data in various forms between sites.
PowerPoint is a flexible tool in itself, and can appear at all sites with the presenter still maintaining full control of the presentation. This is achieved by using IGPix – part of the inSORS suite of hardware and software, but, it is available separately to non-inSORS users. (See photograph 1 for an example of a PowerPoint display.)
Where discussion (or work) may involve modelling, it is possible for other sites to manipulate the model under discussion by using VNC (Virtual Network Computing). Participating sites will need to have VNC installed (freely downloadable from www.realvnc.com) but, once URLs and passwords are exchanged, the transfer of the model (as part of the desktop of the host's computer) is quick. Control of the desktop and the model is then available to other participants as and when they need to rotate, zoom, etc.