This year has introduced some of the most disruptive events of our generation, converting most human interactions to digital collaborations. One of the most notable impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is the accelerated adoption of remote events and video conferencing simply as a new way of life. In fact, many companies have already announced that they will continue to function remotely even after the pandemic. It is estimated that by end of 2021, a third of the workforce in the US will be working remotely
- In March, video conferencing apps saw a record 62 million downloads. – Business Wire
- Teams now has 115 million daily active users, up more than 50% from April (75 million users), and more than 160% from March (44 million users). - GeekWire
Video Meeting Challenges
While video conferencing solutions have been around for some time and gaining popularity in the wake of 2020 disasters, the increased usage has opened the door for new meeting challenges. Video conferencing users have reported overwhelming exhaustion and stress from the increased volume of online meetings and virtual classrooms. Despite the combination of real-time visuals, audio, chat and file sharing functionality, video conferencing tools are still unable to replicate the experience of in-person communication. Video/Audio meeting fatigue is caused by the mental toll of focusing your attention on what is an unnatural form of communication for an extended period. This form of communication also makes it difficult to transfer nonverbal cues such as eye-contact, body language, audience energy level, subtle responses, etc. that can add enormous context and meaning to a conversation.
Screen weariness even intensifies on meetings where slides and screenshare functionality is introduced because the linear nature of presenting a slide-deck is often less intuitive and engaging. Also, when you present a deck or screen-share using today’s video conferencing tools, the presenter is often outside of the visual context or sometimes reduced to a smaller corner window, resulting in an unnatural and disconnected experience for the viewer. The viewer loses the collective focus of the presentation when the content solely occupies the screen.
These challenges along with the wide adoption of video conferencing tools gives us a unique opportunity to reimagine and introduce more real-life like intuitiveness to video meetings even sooner than they might have naturally developed. With impromptu meetings taking place of water cooler or hallway chats, there is also an increased need for curating content on the fly. Presentation tools of the future will soon support presenters in such a way that the discussion can be steered in different tracks based on the audience responses and reactions. Many of the major video conferencing tools are already thinking in this direction and adding the building blocks and features to achieve enhanced, human interaction experiences. A few examples of recent enhancements working toward this goal: virtual video background options, background blur and video filters, Microsoft Teams together mode, live reactions etc. In addition, many augmented and virtual reality experiences have begun to evolve to address these same roadblocks to effective remote collaboration and communication. But the challenge with AR/VR/MR solutions, is they typically require a special environment and additional hardware setup to take advantage of their digital and physical world interactions.
Immersive Technologies in Video Communication Platforms
Now imagine a teacher using Zoom/Teams is able to enhance their lessons with interactive media content or 3D models over their camera feed to better explain a topic while keeping audience attention. Or a sales pitch or employee training session that utilizes virtual interactive means to explain the products and services. Such experiences aren't easily achieved even in a typical in-person meeting without special devices and environmental considerations. However, video conferencing as a platform with intuitive use of Machine Learning (ML) and Computer Vision can give enormous power to augment and improve experiences in this way. Using a regular webcam or phone camera, such a tool could track your head motion or recognize your hand gestures or even sense the broader emotional response of the audience.
The Possibilities of XR Integrated Video Meetings
This level of intuitiveness in remote presentations would increase the cognitive understanding level of the audience and turn a normal meeting or online class into something they experience rather than simply watch. To reach this level of remote communication maturity, video conferencing tools will need to integrate immersive content creation capabilities that allow users to create more engaging and memorable experiences rather than relying on conventional slide-decks.
SummaryThough in existence for some time, the accelerated use of video conferencing solutions have shown we are still in a stage of infancy. However, with the innovations of Extended Reality (XR) technologies, the potential to give humanity the modern means of digital human engagement exists. In the near future, video event attendees will be able to see and interact with virtual 3D replicas of products in real-time, completely eliminating the challenges of geographically separated participants. Though the global pandemic is massively shifting the norms and culture of human interaction, digital innovation continues to connect us in a purposeful manner. The time is now for digital maturity and transformation to meet the demands of new remote work culture and accelerate the adoption and optimization of modern digital engagement tools that will help us grow and evolve no matter what disruption comes next.
Valorem Reply is a place for people who love to solve problems. Innovation is at the core of what we do and our talented teams are always striving to push the boundaries of Modern Workplace technology to meet the ever-changing needs of our ever-changing world. For over a decade we have been helping customers overcome business challenges with AR/VR/MR, spatial computing and immersive experiences like our HoloBeam holographic telepresence technology or IoT Digital Twin Experience.