After weeks of dead ends and near misses you’ve finally come upon your eureka moment. It’s the kind of moment that makes you want to stand up in the middle of the office and yell “Yes!”
You and your colleague from another office are video conferencing, and you’ve solved the backend problem that was holding up the rollout of a new online feature. Now you want to tell everybody who’ll listen.
This isn’t a time for a neatly crafted email. This is a time for a face-to-face announcement. So you transfer your current desktop video call with your colleague to your smartphone. Then you rush to the conference room, stopping along the way to urge your in-office project partners to follow you, and you transfer your smartphone video call to the main screen.
If your online colleague does the same on his end you’ve suddenly transformed a private one-on-one video chat into an instant conference call for a dozen people. At least, that’s how it’ll work in the office of the future once all the different strands of screencasting come together in a seamless web.
Scaling Up a Video Call Using Screencasting
There’s nothing in the concept of scaling up a video call that can’t already be done with today’s technology. The problem is there’s no single link between each phase. Instead, we have a series of competing tools that operate independently.
The basic premise is screencasting, the ability to transfer the in-use function of one device to another. In the above example that’s a live video call in a professional environment.
Screencasting is currently most commonly used to send online data flows from a smartphone or PC directly to a television. Peripheral devices like Google’s Chromecast or Amazon’s Fire TV act as antennas to stream online content not usually available on a television from a nearby digital device. The point is, obviously, to free the content of sites like Hulu and Netflix from the low-tech sights and sounds of a mobile device and present them in the 4K glory of a big screen TV.
Those devices, however, don’t have the necessary microphones and cameras needed to stage a video call. To move a video call from a smartphone to a big screen presentation you currently have to use an integrated video conferencing setup.
Casting Your Screen in the Office
One of the most impressive of these hardware dependent, permanent VC setups is the Cisco Spark Room. It’s a video conference room like many others, complete with high-tech cameras and array microphones that bring every inch of the floor space into the view of a video call.
What sets it apart is the fact that pre-connected mobile devices are automatically connected and integrated with the in-room equipment. So, if you walk into such a room already conducting a video call on your smartphone the main system will detect your presence and let you transfer your call immediately from the small screen to the big screen.
That’s the core of what we want to achieve in realizing our instantly scalable and transferable video call, but it comes at a cost. Literally, in both time and money. These types of video conference rooms cost tens of thousands of dollars to set up–as opposed to the $40 you’d spend on a Chromecast device–and every device you want to connect with it has to be individually connected ahead of time.
If we could find a middle ground somewhere between the functionality of the Spark Room and the ease of the Chromecast, we’d be able to roam from home to the office and beyond, sharing the same call with a rotating cast of people and devices.
A Fully Mobile, Cast-able Video Call
So imagine the following scenario.
You’re on your way to work, and you start your day with a smartphone video call to a colleague at a remote office to get an update on a shared project. When you get to the office, you transfer the call to your desktop so you can add a few pertinent files to the conversation via chat function.
Then you add another colleague to the chat–this one is in your building–brief them on what’s going on and make arrangements for a presentation in the conference room. You transfer your call back to your phone, with your colleagues still on board, and then walk into the conference room where your presence is automatically detected and you can cast the call onto the big screen.
From here, anyone in the room who has to leave early or get to work on something else can cast the conference call back to their phone and continue to listen in as they walk away. Perhaps the video call could branch off in a number of directions, with separate discussions breaking off between smaller groups.
There’s tech available to make most of this possible as well, such as Samsung’s SideSync, which merges a phone and desktop, or the now familiar Bluetooth, which links smartphones. We’re on the verge of a world where video information flows wherever it will have its greatest impact, and no one has to miss out on the latest developments.