The most neglected part of your video conferencing system is staring you right in the face. It’s that big flat black screen that hangs on your wall, sits on your desktop, or looms over your conference room table.
We’re not demanding enough from our digital screens. They provide the essential part of our video conferencing conversations: the revolutionary visual aspect of digital communication. Still, it’s safe to assume the only thing we bother to seek out in a screen is size and contrast. We want wider and taller, with blacker blacks–but there’s more potential in flat screen than we realize.
Next generation video conferencing is generally considered in terms of increased broadband speeds, greater mobile coverage, and 4K visuals. But we should be thinking outside the digital rectangle.
There’s plenty of evidence around us to prove there are alternatives to flat displays and talking-head video meetings. The next generation of video conferencing will be more immersive, thanks to the power of digital presentation.
Curved, Immersive, and Already Here
Viewsonic’s world has curves. The digital display manufacturer produces screens that curl at the edges to bring depth and panoramic grandeur to their desktops. It’s also possible to chain their digital screens together to wrap around the user and create an immersive experience, as though the user is looking out the windows of an airline cockpit. It’s a common enough trick in the AV world, but one that nonetheless impresses on first viewing. These digital screens are compatible with the leading 4K video-calling cameras and video conferencing platforms that already adorn our offices.
Accenture now boasts a suite of the cameras and screens necessary for making 3D conferences an everyday occurrence.
There are other alternatives to the ubiquitous black box currently available, too. Microsoft will soon unleash its crowning glory of interactive digital displays, the rotating, tile-able, connectable, touch-friendly Surface Hub 2.
Cisco’s multi-camera Telepresence MX series stretches the length of your conference room wall and has introduced a chaining technology of its own that allows you to dedicate an entire screen just to your shared content, without interrupting your view of the callers on the other end of your digital connection.
And then there is the holographic showmanship of Accenture’s worldwide network of holographic video conferencing. The consulting service created headlines by simultaneously projecting holograms of its business leaders onto a shared stage from three different locations, and now boasts a suite of the necessary cameras and screens for making 3D conferences an everyday occurrence.
All these possibilities are already in play. What waits around the corner is a system that does away with screens altogether.
New Ways of Seeing
The most anticipated leap awaiting video conferencing is the arrival of a complete virtual reality or augmented reality display. We’ve seen some impressive digital demonstrations of the augmented reality office of the future–floating, interactive files and menus, 3D avatars that share a common virtual space, and augmented displays that attach information to every aspect of our office lives.
What we’ve yet to be presented with is a product we can strap on or download that actually helps us stage a meeting. For the moment, virtual reality goggles obscure our faces, resulting in the counterproductive need for cartoonish representations of ourselves, and the 3D glamour of Accenture requires a lot of expensive smoke and mirrors.
There will come a day when you’ll be able to take down that old flat screen and replace it with a new generation of visual effects.
Those obstacles can hold back developers for only so long though, and hybrid alternatives, such as fishbowl-like domed visual displays, are already filling tech convention floors.
It might feel like we’ve been waiting on the practical arrival of these new ways of seeing for years, but there will come a day when you’ll be able to take down that old flat screen and replace it with a new generation of visual effects.
What will this actually look like? Let’s speculate a little.
True Next Generation Video Conferencing
What we’re thinking of is a circular room completely ringed with a single curved video screen. It’s a floor-to-ceiling immersion that houses a number of imperceptible video conferencing cameras.
Once you close the door behind you, the lights will dim and a central video calling hub will sit illuminated in the center of the room (by the way, these one-touch hubs are already here, and they’re a great way to declutter).
With a virtual touch of the floating meeting agenda you’ll be able to conjure up interactive multimedia presentations.
With a couple of taps of your finger, the circular walls will fill with the figures of your remote colleagues. By donning a lightweight pair of transparent glasses those figures will come down off the walls and walk around the room with you. Of course, the walls can now be configured with a virtual forest setting thanks to a simple background replacement trick.
With a virtual touch of the floating meeting agenda you’ll be able to conjure up interactive multimedia presentations of designs, advertising features, sales reports, and live on-site construction updates.
Once the meeting ends and you walk out of your circular den, you’ll pass a digital flat screen hanging on a corridor wall and wonder, how did we ever get anything accomplished communicating with those things?