March 3, 2007 spout

Using my XBox 360 for Corp. Video Conferencing

I’ve been having another adventure in social video conferencing, this time with my team in Redmond. It all started with Doug brought his 360 into our new conference room, which is just an office with a coupla white boards, some comfy chairs and a 37″ LCD panel for projecting.

Once we got the 360, I purchased a year Live Gold subscription and a live camera for $30, turning it into a video conferencing solution. Now, every morning at scrum, I’m sitting in my living room, telling folks in building 42 what I did yesterday, what I’m doing today and whether I’m blocked or not and they can see as well as hear me. When we go around the room, somebody turns the camera for me and it’s my turn when we get to the LCD panel.

You might ask why we don’t just use Live Messenger’s video support and the answer is — configuration and hardware. Live Messenger’s video just never seems to work out of the box w/ people’s s/w and h/w firewalls and even if it did, nobody’s got a camera on their laptop. Now, the only thing my team mates need to do to see me is turn on the LCD panel and accept my request for video.

That’s not to say that the experience is perfect. I’d love it if the xbox video conferencing:

  • Allowed each side to run video at full screen. I just don’t need to look at myself and when we go picture-in-picture (the LCD is also used for projection), the video’s not very useful.
  • Allowed me to remotely, instead of locally, select zoom regions.
  • Allowed me to control a camera that supported pan, tilt and zoom in hardware.
  • Supported noise cancellation. As it is, I still have to place a phone call to get onto the speaker phone in the room. If we try using the headset as a roaming mike, the feedback makes it unusable.

However, for the $30 incremental cost of the camera + year of live, it’s a solution good enough that we’re using it more and more. Have I mentioned how much I love my xbox 360?