As demand for video conferencing grows, the technology is advancing in productive ways. In particular, the latest AI and machine learning capabilities offer the potential for improved meeting experiences and better capture of information.
AI initiatives are coming from endpoint vendors, meeting software vendors and startups offering unique capabilities on their own or in partnership with meeting platform providers. And, as Metrigy's "Visual Communications and Collaboration: 2020-21" study published in mid-2020 found, AI-powered features are in demand. According to the study, the majority of IT leaders find capabilities such as automated transcription and translation, voice control of meetings and the use of facial recognition to start meetings to be important in their evaluation of competing meeting platforms.
AI enhancements benefit video conferencing
In the video conferencing space, AI is bringing several enhancements to meeting room experiences, such as the following:
- Video improvements, such as active participant framing, virtual backgrounds, alternative layouts and resolution upscaling, improve picture quality.
- Audio improvements, such as active noise cancellation and acoustic fencing, filter out sounds from pets, cars, paper shuffling and even food bags.
- Presentation enhancements enable speakers to appear in front of their content.
- Closed captioning with real-time translation helps participants follow conversations even if those conversations are not in their native language. Soon, AI will support audio translation so participants will be able to hear conversations in their native language.
- Person counting lets facilities managers learn trends in room use that will enable optimal meeting space provisioning and that will release rooms that are scheduled for a meeting but are not occupied after meeting start.
- Facial recognition enables participants to see the names of meeting participants and learn more about them during the meeting. Facial recognition also enables meeting systems to recognize users as they enter a room for faster meeting starts. For example, walking into a room could trigger the video conferencing system to say, "Hello, John. I see you are here for your 2 p.m. meeting. Shall I start it?"
- Automated note taking transcribes conversations and captures action items for later review. More recent AI capabilities even enable transcription engines to recognize individual participants within a meeting room.
- Personal voice assistants enable participants to speak to endpoints and apps to start meetings, capture important items and control the meeting experience.
- Chatbots enable easy interaction with conferencing systems for scheduling or feature control. For example, a person could tell an intelligent chatbot to schedule a meeting, giving it the first names of invitees plus the time and date. Using AI, the chatbot can make an intelligent guess as to the full identity of the invitees and find an open time and conference space that is open on all calendars.
- Proximity detection enables the scheduling of meetings at the available conference room nearest to the person requesting the meeting.
The market for AI-enabled video conferencing
AI capabilities in video conferencing are now a primary differentiator among vendors. Companies such as BlueJeans, Cisco, Google, GoToMeeting, Microsoft, Pexip and Poly, to name a few, all are adding AI-powered capabilities to their endpoints and software, either natively developed or via acquisition of AI startups. Meanwhile, Zoom recently announced a partnership with Otter.ai to deliver capabilities, including transcription and action-item capture.
More recently, endpoint vendors, including Epos, Jabra, Neat, Poly and Sennheiser, as well as meeting vendors, including Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Zoom, have focused on using AI capabilities to improve remote worker experiences by harmonizing the meeting experience for all attendees, regardless of location. An example is the automated framing of participants within a meeting room so they appear on screen to be no different than those attending from their homes.
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AI capabilities offer significant potential to improve meeting experiences and post-meeting workflows, both of which should lead to improved value from collaboration services. Metrigy's research showed just 40% of organizations measure value from their collaboration investments. AI's ability to provide usage analytics, as well as improve meeting experiences, increases the potential for realized cost savings, revenue enhancements and productivity gains by making meetings more intuitive, optimizing use of meeting space, improving in-meeting experience, and ensuring the follow-on action items are accurately captured and distributed to meeting participants.
AI security concerns
AI in video conferencing has a potential downside: More than 51% of Metrigy's study participants expressed strong concerns about AI's capture of information, such as biometrics for facial recognition. Vendors must be able to meet information protection requirements, such as GDPR, and assuage fears of loss of control of facial information should a hacker gain access to phones and other applications. In addition, organizations must adopt a proactive approach for governance and compliance for meeting content, including transcripts, chats, files and notes.
To evaluate whether AI can improve your video conferencing environment, talk with vendors about what is available today and what is coming down the line -- in the next several months and in the next several years. Look for specific use cases that address current pain points, especially around areas such as meeting start and scheduling, in-meeting performance, translation and meeting note capture.
Consider deployment of pilots to test the capabilities of your own vendors, as well as their partners, that bring AI-enabled video experiences to your meeting rooms. Finally, be sure to address any concerns or regulatory requirements governing information protection to ensure compliance with governance rules.