This interview is part of VC Daily’s Future of Video Conferencing series, exploring the next generation of video communication technologies, trends, and possibilities with the people who can see the changes coming.
Mike Brandes wants to simplify your video conferencing setup. In his role as Product Manager for QSC’s AV-to-USB bridging solution he is working toward a future where every aspect of a video call, from moving the camera to lowering the room’s shades, is controlled from a single-user interface.
VC Daily: What will the video conferencing user interface of the future look like?
Brandes: I think, more and more, people want to control all the video conferencing aspects, camera up and down, the screen, microphones, even the ability to raise and lower the shades–all of those things from a singular user interface. We don’t want a smattering of different brands of touch devices scattered around the table. We want to leverage the power of a network in order to reduce the hardware in the designs, so instead of having lots of wires and moving parts everything is simplified.
VC Daily: So how do you achieve that simplicity?
Brandes: We’re moving toward singularity. The future is platforms that talk to each other and integrate. We build AV products for IT folks, and the main frustration IT folks have comes from using disparate platforms that don’t always talk to each other. The Q-SYS control engine is capable of integrating with these separate hardware systems for control today, and in the future this control could potentially be embedded in other applications.
VC Daily: What, then, is the most important part of a future video conferencing solution? How do we make video conferencing easier to install and join?
Brandes: Well, the dream is that you have the appropriate number of cameras, one for the table, one for the whiteboard, etc., and the appropriate number of mics to pick up your audio. You also have a single user interface to control those devices and to launch a video call and to control its start and finish. And that same single interface will control those pieces of tech, lower the lights, control the TV, shades, everything. But the most important factor is that there’s nothing in your platform that prevents you from scaling up in small increments, instead of having to buy more connections for input or output; if you need to add another camera or microphone, etc., you need to be able to do that without having to add another USB port to the computer. So it needs to be flexible without being prohibitively expensive.
VC Daily: There’s a lot of hype around cloud-based video conferencing at the moment. Is there still a strong future for on-premises video conferencing?
Brandes: I think, first off, there’s a misunderstanding in the industry about what cloud based video conferencing is. Something like Skype for Business, for instance, has become so seamless people can’t tell you if they’re using on-premise or cloud. But there will always be a place for organizations who want to host on-premise video conferencing, especially since using your own server reduces latency and issues with bandwidth. Every time you exit your own network and go into a data center, you’re just moving to another on-premise-based solution that’s not your own–it might be even more cumbersome to set up than an on-premise solution. Still, the cloud does offer advantages. It’s more affordable and scalable, and you don’t have to maintain a service. Businesses will continue to have to weigh the pros and cons into the immediate future.
VC Daily: Another technology that’s gaining a lot of attention is 4K display. YouTube and Netflix are streaming in 4K now, and 4K webcams are becoming more affordable, but will it ever become common within video conferencing?
Brandes: Right now the largest constraint is bandwidth. If we were hosting this interview on something like Zoom or Skype, for example, it could fall apart even just using 1080p, so 4K might never become common. That said, just a few years ago we were talking about 720p as very high resolution, and now we’re looking at 8K being a reality. I think where 4K could really shine is in imaging sensors sensitive enough to drive technology such as ePTZ (electronic pan-tilt-zoom) or facial recognition.
VC Daily: Finally, we’d like to get your opinion on a couple of more peripheral video conferencing matters. Do you support WebRTC, and the general idea of open source video calling?
Brandes: I personally think it’s a great technology. I like the idea of WebRTC and open source video calling, and I would imagine that our products will move more in that direction over time. Today QSC supports professional-quality video and audio using USB technology that can be used for a WebRTC call, but we don’t host and launch WebRTC directly from our devices.
VC Daily: What about email and audio calls? Will video calling ever fully replace these traditional office communications?
Brandes: Will it ever replace them? No. But then, thinking about video conferencing as a replacement technology is wrong. We should be thinking about it as an augmenting technology. For example, I send emails every day, and make phone calls every day, but that doesn’t stop me from dropping an IM to a coworker to ask them something. We can always find uses and niches for these technologies in our lives.