Polycom Telepresence Helps Bring Leonardo Da Vinci's
War Machines to Life on New Discovery Channel Series
SOA World Magazine
Weapons designed by Leonardo Da Vinci more than 500 years ago are coming to life — possibly for the first time — on "Doing Da Vinci," a new TV series premiering this week on the Discovery Channel. As a team of 21st century builders, engineers and historians collaborates to construct the medieval arsenal, a thoroughly modern innovation is taking a vital supporting role: high-definition (HD) video communication solutions from Polycom, Inc., the global leader in telepresence, video and voice communication solutions.
The Polycom HDX series telepresence systems allow the show's talented Los Angeles-based build team to collaborate with Dr. Jonathan Pevsner, a Baltimore-based expert on Leonardo Da Vinci. Each episode shows how the "Doing Da Vinci" team uses the Polycom systems to work closely with Pevsner, who describes Da Vinci's intent for each design and advises on historically accurate approaches to building the weapons.
Though best known as the painter of such Renaissance masterpieces as "The Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa," Da Vinci was also a prolific architect and engineer. In the ten-part original series premiering at 10 p.m. Eastern tonight, the "Doing Da Vinci" team uses materials available only in Da Vinci's time to create an array of mechanical armaments, from a futuristic armored tank and machine gun to a fearsome chariot outfitted with four spinning swords designed to cleave enemy soldiers and horses in half.
"At the start of each episode, the build team comes to me over the Polycom HD video connection," said Pevsner, who also is a faculty member at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a hospital for children with neurological disorders. "I can show them a model of the weapon, or I can bring up an image of Leonardo's original drawing on my laptop and share it with them through the content window. A split screen view allows them to see me and to see the content at the same time, and it's all in HD."
The five-member build team uses a Polycom HDX 8000(TM) series room telepresence system outfitted with a 42-inch Polycom Media Center plasma display. Pevsner's Baltimore desktop is equipped with a Polycom HDX 4000, a personal telepresence system that features an integrated monitor, cameras and speakers. Both systems provide Polycom UltimateHD(TM) technology, which delivers true HD video, content and audio.
"I can't imagine going through this without the HD telepresence systems from Polycom," said "Doing Da Vinci" Executive Producer Rob Katz. "We share so much information back and forth, with so much of it visual and highly detailed — and all the while we're under tremendous time pressure. Without this Polycom HD video connection, the whole experience would take a lot longer and prove infinitely more difficult."
"The fact that it's HD is helpful in seeing facial expressions, and the quality of the experience is overwhelmingly positive," said Pevsner. "We're able to have relaxed and natural communications. I don't feel like I'm talking to space shuttle astronauts."
The Polycom systems also come in handy when the two parties need to brainstorm on possible workarounds. In one episode, the LA team concludes that modern sources can't produce a piece of lumber long enough to form the giant lever of Da Vinci's towering three-story siege ladder. The build team then proposes a solution to Pevsner in a video meeting.
But what would Da Vinci think of building his weapons with help from HD video conferencing? "We can only imagine what Leonardo would have thought of a tool like this," said Pevsner. "His basic way of thinking was visual, and that's what Polycom is all about. It would have been beyond his imagination to conceive of something like video conferencing. And yet it's natural to think he'd be excited about the sweeping technological advances that allow us to communicate and collaborate more easily."
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