Highfive Makes Videoconferencing Affordable

For about the cost of an iPad Air, a new start-up says it can make teleconferencing much less painful. The $799 device unveiled on Tuesday by Highfive, a San Francisco start-up, eliminates annoying PIN codes and confusion over how to get phones and video screens working. Highfive is like an Apple TV with a 1080p HD camera and a microphone with a 30-foot range smacked onto it.

Highfive Chief Executive Shan Sinha, a former Google Apps executive, said it should take no more than 2 minutes to connect to a TV. It's designed to sit on a wall mount or on top of the TV.

Calls start on a smartphone or tablet app and are then beamed onto a TV screen, using the app as the Bluetooth remote. Participants get a link to open the call in the app or a Web browser after downloading a plug-in.

"If someone else comes in and kicks you out of the conference room, no need to end the call and start over," Sinha said. "With Highfive, you can just pull the call back to the phone and go into another room without interrupting the call."

For now, participants (other than guests) will need to share the same corporate email domain (@latimes.com, for example). The communication is encrypted, Sinha said. Audio-only and screen sharing are among other features.

Bringing the price of the technology down from the thousands of dollars Cisco and Polycom charge for videoconferencing systems wasn't possible until a couple of years ago, Sinha said. They took advantage of parts similar to those in smartphones and the slipping cost of the back-end computing infrastructure needed to securely transmit video in real time.

Sinha thought it was a challenge worth pursuing because he saw at Google how video transforms a company.

"People feel better connected and decisions are made faster,"...

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