Christian Bongiovanni, co-CEO and CTO for Imagicle gave me a demo of SkyStone Video, which enables video conferencing everywhere to any video endpoint. Using SkyStone Video you can call any video endpoint using Skype, including Cisco/Tandberg, Lifesize, Polycom, Radvision, Sony, and others, enabling you to call video phones, video conferencing systems, and telepresence solutions. Guess this means the VoIP Videphone War is over!To do the demo I simply went to their website and clicked this button (Note: you can do this too):
If you hover your mouse over the button above you'll see it's a Skype link. When I clicked it, Skype was launched and I was connected to Christian Bongiovanni on his Polycom VSX endpoint located in a conference room in Italy. [click image for large view]
The video quality was decent considering it was Transatlantic, but it was not HD video. The resolution is CIF (320x480). I asked Christian how he is able to decrypt Skype's video stream since Skype doesn't offer a video API yet. He said that's their secret sauce and they use tricks to get the video stream. Perhaps that explains why the lower resolution. Lip sync was spot on, so no complaints there. Although it is only CIF resolution, when you weigh that fact vs. the advantages of Skype being able to call any video endpoint and SkyStone certainly can be advantageous to a business organization.
SkyStone Video runs on a dedicated server on your company network and leverages the Skype protocol to enable you to videocall with external Skype users, without messing with the firewall or network configuration. The communication with the video conferencing endpoint on your private network and with the Skype users is encrypted over the Internet for secure video conversations.
SkyStone Video can be configured to connect to multiple video endpoints, MCUs, gatekeepers, and video-enabled PBXs. It can use both H.323 and SIP protocols to communicate with various video endpoints. Additionally, it supports G.711, G.729, H.263, and H.264 for audio and video codecs. The key here is that it leverages Skype's ability to do packet loss concealment for superb audio quality.SkyStone Video is available in 1, 2 and 4 channels versions, representing the number of available concurrent calls from-to Skype users. If more than 4 channels are needed, you can add another server with additional 1, 2 or 4 channels. Each channel (audio+video) uses 128kbps to 384kbps, with automatic bandwidth adjustment provided by Skype.
What's cool is that you can set your IP phone extension to do call forwarding, say to x8000 which is mapped to a Skype username and then receive that call (including video) via Skype when on the road, telecommuting, etc.
The product gives you the ability to add "video call me" button to your website, which is nice value-add. Considering the omnipresence of Skype users, the SkyStone Video enables Skype users to reach and leverage your high-end video conferencing equipment that your organization invested in.
Here's a video of it in action:
SkyStone is available as a full trial version (Skype video calls are limited to 60s). Finally, SkyStone also connects Microsoft OCS/Lync with Skype allowing the popular business app - Lync to connect with a popular consumer and increasingly business app - Skype. If you're looking to leverage your existing investment in video endpoints and want to extend it to the Skype world, SkyStone Video is certainly worth a look. I'd like to see support for higher resolutions in the future, but SkyStone Video is the only game in town that supports everything from high-end telepresence systems to Skype webcams. Definitely check out the trial and see if this solution works for you.