Saturday, September 17, 2016

BPN 1727: The Jaguar of the real-time video phones

With some aplomb the device was put on the conference table. A company disposed of it with the message that it might have been used as a high-tech projector. The device was accompanied by a printed manual from 2003.

After some deep pondering, there was recognition: Exo'vision, a company founded by Eckart Wintzen, the early Dutch evangelist of sustainability. In 1976 Wintzen started the IT company BSO. It was not just a traditional computing company, organised in a holding, divisions, subsidiaries and departments. The management style of Wintzen was based on the principle of cell division. If a company had more than 50 employees, a new company had to be split off to preserve the creativity and independent thinking. In 1990 BSO merged with the IT division of Philips in BSO/Origin, later on part of ATOS.

After the merger Wintzen became a social serial entrepreneur and initiated several companies. Sustainability was one of the themes of his philosophy. He was irritated by the Dutch disease  of traffic congestion, promoted glass fibre infrastructures and put money in the car sharing project Greenwheels. And to reduce the traffic of the business sector he built the Jaguar under the real-time video phones: the Eye-catcher. This was in the second half of the nineties when just a start was made with separate cameras, which could be used in combination with laptops. Around 2000 Sony presented with a Vayo sub-notebook which featured a built-in camera. But the quality of these cameras was low. Eyecatcher, however, was a stand-alone device with a high resolution. The device could be connected to other low-grade video cameras, to PCs in different places. The Eye-catcher could present 1 to 4 people. Besides the visual and auditive contacts also  presentations and data could be transferred and shown.

The Eye-catcher was a slick device with a wonderful picture quality. Yet it never became a hit. That had to do with the crossing of the technological paths. Telecom was in the transition from ISDN to broadband. The low quality cameras for PCs were installed and the configuration became common. Eyecatcher became a device for niches in the business market, broadcast market and for companies with a large geographical footprint. The development of the technology was also costly. In short, the company and the device were not given a long commercial life.

This Eyecatcher device came from a warehouse, where the manager did not recognise the device and thought that it looked like a projector. In the meantime we avail ourselves of real-time low resolution video traffic via Skype and FaceTime. 

See the presentation of the Eyecatcher 3.0 by Grootlicht from 2004.

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