The future of work collaboration: Artificial intelligence and video conferencing

Exclusive to EI, Anne Marie Ginn,Head of Video Collaboration, EMEA at Logitech, explains what integrators need to know about the future of the workplace.

Today demand for video conferencing is booming. According to a recent study from Frost & Sullivan the global conferencing services market is expected to grow gradually and reach $11 billion by 2023, due to the accelerated usage of conferencing via cloud web and video, mobility and rich analytics.

What’s more, the same report predicts that artificial intelligence (AI) will play an important role in driving this growth by creating video conferencing applications that deliver more natural, contextual, and relevant meeting experiences.

This data suggests that while demand for video collaboration is growing, traditional video conferencing is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Gone are the days when video conferencing was only used in large boardrooms for formal presentations and meetings. Today’s businesses are shifting their focus to create a flexible working environment.

With half of the UK workforce expected to work remotely by 2020, video enabled communication will become more important than ever for ensuring an organisation can continue to operate productively.

It’s not surprising then that a growing number of businesses are investing in huddle rooms and multi-purpose breakout areas that are equipped with video devices.

However, these steps are just the beginning of enhancing productivity, and as office spaces continue to evolve, so is collaboration technology. In this article I’ll explore the next stage of innovation in video conferencing, driven by the adoption of AI.

How AI is transforming video conferencing

Advancements in AI can dramatically improve the user experience and drive efficiencies by helping automate time-consuming collaboration tasks. In fact, AI can drive innovation in three key areas: meeting room analytics, natural language processing, and computer vision.

Analysing meeting room use to drive productivity

AI-driven devices can make conference rooms smarter and meetings run more efficiently by analysing factors that you may never have even considered.

For example, AI can automate tasks such as rescheduling calls and rebooking meeting rooms based on conversations over email or sending important notifications about which rooms are available and which are busy. AI could even suggest which resources or documents you may need to bring to a meeting ahead of time or enable screen sharing within and across rooms.

The data insights generated from AI can also be a valuable tool for making the most of office space and helping facilities management teams to operate efficiently.

For example, AI can help businesses to understand how meeting rooms are being used – how many people on average use each of them, for how long, at what times of the day and if meetings typically overrun. As a result, occupancy levels could be better managed, making sure the right room is free for the right type of meeting.

The power of natural language processing

Natural language processing (NLP) is already being used to improve video conferencing applications in multiple ways.

For example, it can facilitate the automatic transcription of meetings, sharing actions and notes, and even the translation of the conversations into different languages. When combined with AI capabilities, NLP can also enable chatbots or virtual assistants to start, join and leave meetings by using a voice command feature.

And these aren’t the only uses for natural language processing. It can also support better audio quality, as it can automatically suppress echo and minimise background noise.

For example, if someone was rustling paper or receiving noisy notifications on their laptop during the meeting, the technology is intelligent enough to muffle this background noise.

This, coupled with evolving techniques such as automatic levelling and beamforming, will make everyone in the meeting easy to hear and understand.

Computer vision: making the most of each video interaction

Ultimately, none of these useful advancements would be possible without the development of computer vision in video conferencing. Computer vision frames meeting participants and then automatically adjusts the zoom to deliver a better video experience for those on the far end.

When the number of participants changes or people move to a different part of the room, the camera control allows to automatically tilt, pan and zoom to centre and frame participants. This could be particularly useful for more interactive meetings, for instance if someone stood up to draw a diagram on a flip chart. 

More advanced functions of computer vision include gaze correction and controlling the background environment in the room to improve user experience.

For instance, when combined with AI capabilities, computer vision can support colour and light correction by automatically detecting potential issues and amending them by emphasising faces even in dim or backlit rooms.

The bottom line: AI is poised to deliver smarter meetings

AI has the potential to transform video conferencing and enable a much better user experience and more productive video meetings. However, for all this to happen, the industry needs to ensure interoperability between video conferencing devices in a multi-vendor AI environment.

All players in the marketplace will need to work together to make sure that new advancements in AI and computing vision are designed with the user’s privacy in mind.

Only by improving the reliability of emerging video conferencing technologies and building trust in the ecosystem, will we be able to drive mainstream adoption of AI-based video collaboration. This will be key for ensuring all industry players can reap the productivity benefits of this technology.

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