In a four-way meeting, each participant would see each of the 3 remote participants in a separate video surrogate. The geometry of the round table would be preserved. Because each person is represented by a surrogate, things like gaze awareness and the ability to redirect one's gaze are supported.
Besides their application in multiparty meetings, the physical design of the Hydra units are also well suited for desktop video and diadic desktop video conferencing. They provide an alternative to having the video appearing a window on the computer screen, where there is contention for screen real-estate. Because of the tall-narrow form factor of the Hydra units, the video image appears adjacent to the computer monitor, but it does not interfere. And, because of the small foot-print, one pays a minimal price for having an additional display.
These are small desk-top video surrogates. Each unit consists of an LCD monitor, CCD camera and speaker. They are about 11 inches high, and have a footprint of about 3" x3". They were originally developed to support "around the table" meetings.
For small group meetings, the Hydra units have proven a very effective way to support multiparty meetings. They are cost effective, and have proven useful even in point-to-point conferencing.
Back to Toys
The underlying infrastructure to support Hydra-like multiparty meetings is not really economically or technologically feasible at this point.
Prototypes have been built and tested. The units could be replicated and developed commercially.