Pc Conference Calls Come Closer To Reality

Researchers at IBM say they've made a breakthrough in transmission of moving pictures that should make it easier for personal computer users to hold face-to-face meetings without getting out of their seats. In a prototype using IBM PS/2 computers, the talking heads of office mates appear in windows on the screen at a TV-like speed of 30 frames per second. All participants have to be connected to the same local-area network. IBM has not said when it plans to sell such a system. It figures that, when it does, the price per desktop, including software, microphones, and cameras, could be about that of today's more expensive add-in circuit boards for PCs.

The key to IBM's system is the way video images are handled after they've been compressed into a data stream to squeeze onto the network wiring. Other systems decompress the data stream, returning it to its massive original size before preparing it for display on a screen. That takes a lot of expensive computing horsepower. IBM researchers figured out a way to prepare the image for display while it's still tightly compressed - a much more manageable job.

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