Zoom adds voice commands to Zoom Rooms

Zoom Rooms voice controls could ease the frustrations of using conference room video hardware. Zoom released the feature in public beta, making it available on select systems.

Zoom has added to Zoom Rooms voice commands that could simplify the use of conference room systems.

The feature, released in public beta this week, uses technology from voice recognition firm Sensory Inc. The new commands let workers start a meeting, join a discussion, end a session and check in and out of a conference room. The feature works on all Zoom Rooms hardware.

People who want to use the voice controls will wake the room system by saying, "Hello Zoom." Sensory processes all commands locally, instead of the cloud, to avoid conflicting with enterprise security policies.

Technalysis Research founder Bob O'Donnell said features like voice controls are needed to reduce the complexity of conference-room systems.

"[The systems] were notoriously difficult for people to use," he said. "We've all gotten to be experts at running Zoom calls on our PCs, but that doesn't necessarily translate on a system in a room."

On PCs, workers click on a link to launch into a meeting. Conference room systems often have dedicated control devices that can be finicky, O'Donnell said. Bypassing the hardware with a voice activation system could remove that hassle.

With the voice control release, Zoom also launched a public beta version of Smart Gallery. The feature displays in-office and at-home meeting participants in individual video frames to let remote workers read facial expressions and body language.

A Zoom Rooms conference room
Zoom has added voice commands to Zoom Rooms.

Smart Gallery works with only specific cameras, according to Zoom. Several Poly devices support the feature now, while Neat, Logitech and DTEN D7 products will add support this year.

Cisco and Microsoft have announced plans to release a similar feature in Webex and Teams, respectively, this year.

Zoom also added a Zoom Rooms chat feature that's unrelated to the public beta releases. Available immediately, the feature lets people use a Zoom Rooms controller or touch screen to type messages to other meeting participants. Zoom said this feature gives conference room attendees parity with those using computers or phones.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily NewsWalpole TimesSharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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