Logitech’s new software is watching you, in fact, it’s watching your entire meeting room.
From the moment you boot up the video conferencing system to your parting goodbyes with the party on the other end of the line, it’s got its smart senses on you.
The tech is incorporated in the company’s new Rally group video conferencing system, and the idea is that it can recognize that people are in the room, where they are and whether or not they’re even facing the camera. As a result, and without you having to do anything other than concentrate on your meeting, your conference cam is constantly adjusting and re-adjusting to keep you centered and in focus, audible and presentable.
It’s one of the latest examples of how video conferencing hardware and software are getting more sophisticated in order to make your video calling experience as natural as possible. Simple video calling software platforms, with their emphasis on user-friendly interfaces and easy-to-install downloads, have opened up video calling to casual users and small businesses and now the hardware side of things is learning to do the same–in some cases also through the use of easy-to-manage software upgrades.
Simple Video Calling Software
VC Daily has reviewed a number of the best and most popular video conferencing apps currently available. What’s common across our reviews, from the household names like Skype and Google Hangouts to market disruptors like Zoom and BlueJeans or even the gaming-focused Discord app, is how little time we need to explain how to install them. Once, video calling companies prided themselves on offering rapid on-site technical assistance, now we can do it ourselves in a matter of clicks.
Zoom, for instance, has become one of the fastest growing apps in the world in part because it is ready to go in minutes. All you need to do to install it is click on the appropriate button and let it work itself out with your computer.
Once in the app, things are just as straightforward. Like any other well-designed video app–Vidyo is a good example, as is GoToMeeting–you activate features by clicking on intuitive icons, making it easy to add another caller, record a call, or mute an attendee. And, as with most apps and programs, the user gets to control how involved they get with the technology. You can take a deep dive into the settings to perfect the connection and display, or you can just power up the app and leave it to your computer.
Making things easier (and cheaper, another big trend in video conferencing recently) has the obvious result of making them more accessible. In turn, many of us treat our video calling platforms like we do our smartphones–we don’t entirely understand all the potential, we just want an instant connection. The same now applies to video hardware.
The promise of products like Logitech Rally is that you’ll get professional results without having to be an IT professional (well, except when it comes to getting the thing installed). Rally boasts a range of smart features across its camera, microphone, and speaker setup that do all the work for you. Dubbed RightSense, these features will become available when the full system ships this fall and will include the automatic image cropping, movement, and focus described above, plus advance noise cancellation, light correction, and audio enhancement. It’s designed to do all the fiddly basics that would otherwise require a constant, steady hand on a remote, and lets you instead focus on the actual conversation at hand.
Logitech is far from the only peripherals manufacturer to be getting smarter with its hardware by upgrading things online as the software evolves. The recently released Go by Huddly initially shipped with features like content capture that can transcribe writing from a whiteboard, and the company plans to add more than 100 downloadable features as they refine their product.
Dolby’s recently released webcam, which arrives in-box with auto-cropping and auto-focus like Rally, has the added bonus that it can “ghost out” anyone who walks in front of the conference room whiteboard during a presentation.
Cisco, meanwhile, has developed a room kit that is able to recognize paired mobile devices and identify meeting attendees without them having to sign in. It can also recognize voices and move its camera to follow whoever is currently speaking. Their chief rival, Polycom, has developed a system of four-sided touchscreen units that offer a realistic 360-degree view of the room through the use of a central periscope camera.
And on it goes.
Automation Is King
All of these innovations stem from a lesson that video conferencing pioneers learned the hard way: users want simplicity. Microsoft, for example, totally reinvented its approach to conference room set up by engaging with three different hardware manufacturers to create a series of user-friendly control hubs. The resulting Skype Room Systems offer touchscreen simplicity and one-click meeting launch where once an IT expert was needed to prepare for a group video call.
This trend toward evolving hardware and simpler software is backed up by the continued partnership between the two halves of the video calling world. Many platforms now have preferred partners who configure and optimize their equipment to work with specific software and potential updates. Microsoft has long employed certified partners, and now the likes of Zoom and Google are also on board.
The key, however, is that things stay simple. Consumers will accept the idea that a specific webcam or video conferencing room set-up can only (or should only) be used with one video calling platform, as long as the process of getting on a call is a frictionless experience. Ultimately, we’re heading to a future where voice and device recognition will enable us to launch a video conference simply by entering a room, getting seated, and announcing who we’d like to call. With their advanced hardware and easily updated software, the machines are going to do everything else for us.