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Jay Scott Christianson, owner of Kaleidescope.
Teleportation exists only in the imaginations of techies and Trekkies, but Kaleidoscope Videoconferencing has the next best thing that technology has to offer.
The Columbia-based business combines video communications systems with PCs, the Internet and multi-media devices to create customized conferences that allow multi-site, real-time interactive exchanges.
Scott Christianson talks in his conference room in Columbia with his business partner, Tom Jerzak, who was in New York.
“Videoconferencing is a specialized niche, and we are the only business in Columbia that focuses on it,” owner Scott Christianson said. “There are a couple local places that sell some of the equipment, but we sell every brand (LifeSize, Tandberg, Polycom, Sony and Codian) in order to fit the right product to the application.”
Kaleidoscope Videoconferencing, formerly known as Kaleidoscope Consulting, has been in operation since 1998. Christianson acts as a Jack-of-all-technological-trades, while his wife, Ava Fajen, serves as office manager.
Kaleidoscope’s most popular product is from LifeSize Communication, high-definition video conferencing. With a 1280×720 video resolution at 30 frames per second, the technology provides what’s known as TelePresence, or an experience that allows users to meet with remote participants as if they’re sitting in the same room.
“Locally we’ve sold about 20 to 30 LifeSize systems in the past year, and a low-end system costs about a $10,000 with high-definition display and all the equipment,” said Christianson. “We mainly deal with businesses, but there have been a couple instances where we’ve worked with teachers working remotely, and homebound students.”
In August 2007 Kaleidoscope competed in a two-day shoot-out with eight other vendors to obtain the University of Missouri’s Life Sciences videoconferencing contract, which is funded through a grant from NASA. Kaleidoscope secured the contract and has installed LifeSize systems at the university campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla.
Christianson uses the control panel to make adjustments for the Lifesize
Videoconferencing system in the Monsanto Auditorium.
“We all worked together on the decision-making process with the intent of enhancing the ability of researchers on different campuses to collaborate on projects. After narrowing it down to 3-4 systems, we agreed that Kaleidoscope’s offering–LifeSize HD Videoconferencing–was the best,” said Cynthia Scheiner, IT manager for the MU Life Sciences Center. “I have known Scott for a long time and he’s respected and very knowledgeable in the field, so once the project evolved, we decided to have him install a LifeSize System in the Monsanto Auditorium as well.”
Another key component of the business is Kaleidoscope’s videoconferencing room, which allows the company to connect to over 3,000 locations across the United States and in more than 70 countries. The facility is rented once or twice a week for job interviews, remote depositions, contract negotiations, mediations, client meetings, medical consultation, company meetings and events, and training and seminars.
“In the past couple months we’ve seen an increase in sales with the steep price of gas resulting in the rising price for travel,” said Tom Jerzak, sales manager for Picture Phone Inc. and Christianson’s business associate. “People are also dusting off their old systems, and the high-definition quality is even more improved than it was just a year ago.”
Videoconferencing, rather than traveling, can generate significant savings on airfare, hotel and meal costs, ground transportation and entertainment expenses, according to the company. Christianson cited recent figures indicating that a business saves an average of $1,300 per person each time a meeting is converted into a videoconference from one in which participants would have had to travel to attend.
Kaleidoscope’s conferencing room seats as many as nine people and is equipped with Internet Protocol Videoconferencing of up to 768 kilobytes per second, AES Encryption for secure videoconferencing, a 50-foot plasma screen and LifeSize Team Codec capable of high definition video, DVD for presenting, and the ability to send PowerPoint and PC presentations.
Skype and iChat are great, but webcams get frustrating,” Jerzak said. They’re fun toys, but it becomes difficult when the connection is lost, or the sound doesn’t match the video. High definition doesn’t rely on a PC and is better for group meetings because you can get a lot of people around the table.”
Kaleidoscope’s room rental rates depend on the number of connections, the bandwidth of the connection, the duration of the conference and the time of day. There is a minimum one-hour charge for room rental, with additional time billed in 15-minute increments.
201 West Broadway,
Building 3, Suite H.