By Steven Robertson, UC Product Manager at Kathea
Video conferencing has long been heralded as the ideal eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to travel and expensive face to face meetings. But the reality is that the actual video conferencing experience has fallen far short of expectations, for a number of reasons. Thankfully technology is starting to catch up, and innovations with cameras, mobility and bandwidth availability have changed the face of video conferencing, finally making it a viable, personal alternative to face to face meetings.
During video conferences, cameras are usually zoomed out to show the whole room for the duration of meetings. This results in impersonal and unnatural communication, and often the inability to accurately judge facial expression. Adjusting the camera angle using a remote control can be difficult and typically interrupts the flow of the meeting as users struggle to focus on the correct speaker. Solutions that zoom into specific people based on sound are also not ideal, as these systems are often confused by coughing, shuffling, even typing on a keyboard, and tend to focus on the incorrect person, which is distracting for the speaker and participants alike. Far from mimicking the interaction of a face-to-face meeting, video conferencing is often stilted, awkward and not fully productive as a result.
To create direct, high impact engagement and focus, sophisticated voice triangulation and facial recognition should be used, along with fully automated camera pan, tilt and zoom motions in an intelligent unified visual communications system. These intelligent solutions highlight, zoom in and frame active speakers, without requiring speakers wear any special clothing, microphones or equipment.
Once a voice has been located, these intelligent solutions execute facial detection algorithms to determine whether the user is speaking to other users in the room or to meeting participants at the far end. The camera then automatically zooms in and positions the speaker in optimal proportion and location in the viewing window, ensuring that far end participants always enjoy a high-impact, immersive experience.
By personalising the telepresence experience, users can take part in more productive and richer communications, without worrying about staying in camera view or interrupting the flow of conversation by having to handle a remote control. Intelligent visual communication solutions ensure that all participants can clearly see critical facial expressions and read the subtle body language of others in the meeting, enabling deeper engagement and more effective video conferencing.
Aside from impersonal and stilted meetings, video conferencing historically has also required that all participants be present in specialised rooms set up with expensive equipment, which is not always a realistic option given today’s increasingly mobile workforce. The proliferation of mobile devices, as well as increasingly pervasive connectivity through a variety of mediums including 3G, WiFi and even 4G, enables users to connect and communicate on the go.
Video conferencing and visual communication technology needs to keep pace with evolving users in order to provide true value to business. In order to achieve this it is vital to offer mobile users the option of connecting to a conference on the fly, using a notebook, a tablet or even a smartphone. Unified communications should be able to provide continuity between mobile devices and enterprise collaboration, offering consistent quality of experience across platforms, effectively catering for mobile demand.
Mobile unified visual communication solutions now allow users to connect and collaborate face-to-face on smartphones or tablets, no matter where any of the users are located. This provides the freedom required by a mobile workforce to meet anywhere and stay connected with a single device for phone calls, video conferences, email, content sharing, calendars and more, while still ensuring the reliability, security, and enterprise-quality of video calls in any environment.
Whether users are on the go, working from home, in their office, in a conference room or in an immersive theatre, unified video conferencing and visual communication technology should be able to cater for it all. Technology has changed the face of video conferencing, bringing it up close and personal and enabling it to truly become a viable option to reduce travel time and experience the personal connection of face-to-face communications.