Video conferencing screens aren’t what they used to be. That’s because they’re no longer exclusively used for video conferences. Now, it’s common to create a more efficient workplace and workflow by combining technologies into single, multifaceted devices that act more as central hubs than stand-alone equipment.
If you began your video conferencing experience as a social user or in a small business, you probably didn’t give much thought to the screen in front of you as you made your call. If you were using Skype on a desktop computer or FaceTime on your mobile, you didn’t really have a choice. Even if you were part of a larger video call in a conference room setup, the screen was probably little more than a flat-screen TV pressed into service through an HDMI connection.
Now, however, the screen is an active part of the video call. We have a variety of digital whiteboards, giant tablets, and hybrids of the two available that act as a computer, video chat display, and touch-sensitive presentation device all at once–a video conferencing whiteboard, if you will.
And we’ve noticed that there’s something of an arms race going on to create the ultimate video and presentation screen.
Tech giants Microsoft, Google, and Cisco may have grabbed most of the attention for their big multimedia displays and digital whiteboards, but competition is growing.
Interactive technology makers i3, for instance, have released a series of products designed to fill the same genre of flat surface, interactive, multimedia, multi-functional displays. The company’s latest of these is the i3HUDDLE, a 55-inch, wall-mountable integrated Windows computer with the look and feel of a tablet. It’s intended as a single-source presentation device that can provide its own hardware or instantly mirror the screens of up to four different in-room devices which are then controlled from the main screen–a handy feature given the rising popularity of bring-your-own-device offices. The touchscreen can recognize 20 simultaneous touchpoints and the device features a digital, recordable whiteboard, internet access, Office 365 apps, and collaborative remote document creation. Basically, it’s a great big touchscreen with the functionality of a real computer.
You can see it in action below during the Integrated Systems Europe 2018 conference:
One thing we’ll note: the unit itself doesn’t have a webcam, but i3 has told us that the i3HUDDLE is compatible with any conference cam and video conferencing platform you choose. It’s certainly a beautiful looking piece of equipment, and the promise of universal video conferencing access is a relief; the only question left is, why? Why do we need a super video conferencing screen?
Huddle Room Efficiency with a Digital Video Conferencing Whiteboard
Whiteboards such as the i3HUDDLE are so well-rounded that video conferencing doesn’t have to be their main function. In practical terms, you could use them for purely in-room presentations to show slides, graphs, and multimedia–basically anything you can create, store, or just share from a portable device.
The i3HUDDLE takes its name from the increasingly popular huddle room concept in which small multipurpose spaces are used to facilitate on-the-fly meetings by dedicated teams. That’s the driving force behind the device, as well–a multipurpose product that can be used by a variety of teams in a variety of ways without a lot of training or fussing with the set-up.
Here’s how it might go. You buy yourself a big digital whiteboard such as the i3HUDDLE, you mount it in your huddle room, and you bring all the meeting-specific equipment and files on your tablet or laptop to throw up on the screen each time you need to collaborate. Some days you’ll meet with your colleagues to share a project update. Some days you’ll meet up with remote clients to pitch an idea. Some days you’ll check in with another branch office to coordinate on an ongoing issue.
Whatever the reason, the huddle room and the hardware inside can adapt to your specific needs, then revert to a blank canvas for the next team. You can’t get that sort of interactive flexibility from a static TV screen, and you can’t get that versatility with a permanent video conferencing setup.
And, as we said earlier, there’s more than just the i3 to choose from.
Digital Whiteboarding with Google, Cisco, and Microsoft
While it’s possible you haven’t heard of i3, which is headquartered in Belgium and has had a more European focus, you’ll certainly have heard of other versions of this technology making the rounds in the U.S., such as Microsoft’s Surface Hub.
Microsoft was one of the first out of the gate with this product, released in 2015. It updated that model with the visually stunning Surface Hub 2, scheduled for release in Q2 of 2019. While we haven’t compared it to i3’s smart whiteboard product, its rotatable screen and ability to link units seems a step ahead of the i3HUDDLE’s design:
Google and Cisco have also released digital whiteboards, which look and act very similarly to each other and the i3HUDDLE. These more closely resemble traditional whiteboards but perform the same Surface Hub task of making the average video call less complicated and giving it a more tactile, in-room feel.
In each case, the goal is to combine technologies to make the most out of the spaces and devices that surround us. Your video calling screen shouldn’t have to be a static window with only one function–it should enhance your meetings, improve your presentations, and make your office more flexible and efficient.