December 2, 1996 10:00 AM ET

USR's Bigpicture reels in VDONet phone, video wares
By Stacy Lavilla

  U.S. Robotics Inc. will ship this month a series of low-cost videoconferencing packages that let users make phone calls via the Internet and traditional phone lines as well as view full-motion video from a World Wide Web site.

At the heart of the Bigpicture line of videoconferencing packages is the Video Kit, which consists of a color video camera, a video capture card and a 33.6K-bps fax modem, according to company officials in Skokie, Ill.

Through a licensing agreement, USR will include VDONet Corp.'s VDOPhone software and VDOLive Internet video broadcasting software with the $399 Bigpicture Video Kit.

VDOPhone enables analog modem users to place videoconference calls to other VDOPhone users via a direct modem connection or via the Internet, said officials at VDONet, in Palo Alto, Calif.

VDOLive lets users view live video from Web sites and make videoconference calls, officials said.

Some users said the quality of the product falls short of business requirements. Bigpicture captures full-color video at 320-by-240-pixel resolution at up to 30 frames per second.

"720-by-480-pixel [resolution] at 30 frames per second with true color is really what you need to get sharp-enough detail," said Claude King, senior systems programmer at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. "The video frame rate that I've seen on a lot of this stuff isn't good for high detail, but it's OK for faces talking to each other."

In addition to the Bigpicture Video Kit, USR will also offer a $249 Bigpicture Video Modem and Capture Card package and a $249 Bigpicture Video Camera & Capture Card.

The VDONet software also will be integrated into the Bigpicture Video Modem and Capture Card package.

The Bigpicture packages will be available through USR distributors.

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