April 20, 2014

Facilities for Remote Participation and Collaboration

The SMART room, showing the SMART board.
The videoconferencing unit is also kept here but is portable.

Videoconferencing and Remote Participation in Fields Events

  • We have video conferencing hardware (described below) which can be booked either for individual video conferences or for linking a Fields event to a similar videoconferencing unit at a remote location so that a group of people there can participate in the event.

  • This works well if there is similar equipment at the remote site, but does not yet work with Skype or other software-based systems, and requires advance preparation and testing of the remote equipment.

  • Under development is infrastracture to allow remote partipication from sites that do not have any special equipment; we hope to have this in place by late 2011.

Remote Collaboration with Researchers at Fields

  • Our SMART board (described below), located in the "SMART room" pictured above, can be used as a collaboration tool between someone at Fields and someone outside, as if both were standing at the same chalk board.

Details of Equipment

1. "LifeSize Room" model of videoconference unit

  • Fields can set up video conferences with other LifeSize units, and with most other video video conferencing hardware (supports the SIP and H.323 protocols and the H.261 and H.264 video codecs). Works extremely well in these contexts. Note, though, that connecting to Skype is not currently supported, nor to most other software-only videoconferencing software due to subtle compatibility issues.

  • Supports up to 6 participating locations (4 visible at one time).

  • Can show both a video camera feed (e.g. presenter) and data (e.g. presentation slides).

  • Portable - can be used in the other classrooms and lecture rooms too, in conjunction with either one of our portable projectors or a fixed projector.

  • To arrange to use the unit, or to inquire about the possibility of using it to connect to a particular remote site's equipment, contact the computing staff: sysadmin(at)

2. SMART Technologies interactive whiteboard (77", model SB680)

  • The SMART Board can be used to display one's entire computer desktop, or a specific document or program, on a whiteboard which is permanently set up in our SMART room.

  • Can be used to annotate by touch on a presentation one is giving to an audience in that room, or to record into a document the writing one does on the board. This can be done either with the built-in "SMART Notebook" software (which can interpret different pen touches in different ways or for different colours) or in any standard software program (which merely interprets any touch as mouse movement).

  • Can also be used for remote collaboration, in conjunction with either a phone call or video conference, so that users at another locationcan see what you write on the board and can write on it themselves. This can be done either with a remote end that has a similar board or by a remote end using a regular mouse and computer screen, either by using desktop-sharing software (freely downloadable for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh) or by using a program that runs in a standard web browser.

  • To book time in the SMART room, please contact the Fields computing staff: sysadmin(at)