Tico Box
Fig 1: The Tico Box in Oslo

Setting up Tico.

The number one priority this week was to get Tico up and running. The previous week, all lectures and communication between the two campuses had been through Zoom, and quite a lot of time had been consumed by solving technical problems and issues regarding the Zoom connection.

As we understand it, the firmware of the Tico box had been updated in Oslo side during the weekend, and this was going to solve much of the problems we have had before. So on Monday morning, when suddenly Robin’s face covered the whole screen in Oslo, with crystal clear quality - every little wrinkle and furrow of his hairy face revealed - we in Oslo were all a little stunned.

Robin on Tico

And amazed. What a picture quality! So uncompressed! This was a different world - it was more like going to the IMAX movies (the world’s dullest Viking movie though), but it was quite amazing.

Unfortunately, there was still no picture coming through from the Oslo side up to Trondheim. So again - again - AGAIN!! - we were back in business with Zoom. However - the sound from Trondheim was working both ways, so we were able to work with the Tico audio set-up.

The Oslo set-up from the previous week had somehow been rigged down, so we were back to scratch. We had been discussing setting up a “one-long-table”-solution, with the tables facing the wall, to make it look like we were all sitting around one long table in Oslo and Trondheim. At this point, the solution could not be tested out, as the Tico sound was very sensitive to feedback. We had to place the microphones about two metres from the speakers, and the speakers were placed on each side of the 4xmonitor for Tico. Then we solved the Zoom issue by setting up a permanent set-up with Zoom booting from a Lenovo laptop, using the Panasonic TV as a monitor. We used the Logitech Sausage camera for routing both the sound and video to Trondheim.

We decided upon using two condenser microphones in between of two tables, as shown on the picture. Besides from that, the table set-up for teaching situations was very similar to the set-up from previous week.

Set-up Oslo Portal
Fig 2: Set- up Oslo Portal

Set-up Oslo Portal
Fig 3: Set- up Oslo Portal

The Logitech Sausage setup however provides very poor audio quality. The microphone isn’t sensitive enough to clearly pick up sounds from the back of the classroom, so students have to shout in the general direction of the Logitech Camera to be heard in Trondheim. To improve the audio quality on Zoom, a USB Studiolive mixer was connected to the Zoom designated Lenovo laptop. The microphones shown in the setup above can thus be connected to the usb mixer, sending their sound to Trondheim over Zoom loud and clear.

But why do we even need Zoom in the first place, when the Portal technology should allow us to see and hear each with crystal clear clarity? Well…

Tico dropping out

Close-up of Oslo screen black
Fig 4: Oslo screen when Tico connection broke

On the lecture in Entrepreneurship, September 13, we got the chance to fully try out the new set-up, with Oslo receiving uncompressed video through Tico, and Trondheim receiving both video and sound through Zoom. We can’t honestly say that this was a streamlined experience. Several times, the video dropped out for for about 5 seconds before it gradually came back, screen by screen. In the beginning, the video dropped out every 5 minute. Trough the end of the lecture, the video dropped out every minute, and was rather a distraction to the whole teaching/discussion situation. Zoom’s main purpose for the day was intentionally to be used for streaming sound and the Power Point presentation. But because of the unstability of the Tico connection, we had to switch between the slides and the Zoom video to see people talking.

Oslo screens black
Fig 5: Broken Tico connection

Oslo screens turning back on
Fig 6: Tico connection getting back up

Re-installing the Tico firmware in Trondheim, September 14

In an attempt to fix the issues with Tico, the box in Trondheim got some service from CESNET (The Czech association behind the box we are using). This seems to have solved some of the issues, but we were still getting some dropouts every few minutes. The quality was still miles ahead of the other solutions we had tried, and the latency was so short we could clap a beat at both campuses and it sounded like we were clapping simultaniously. The latency for the video was however much longer, so it didn’t look like we were clapping together.

Since there still were some issues, it got us looking a bit closer on what was happening when the connection would drop, and it seems there might be something more to do with the network connection between Oslo and Trondheim that needs to be sorted. Hopefully then we will be able to run a Tico-connection 24/7.

Group B signing off