Conference calls have long been the standard for connecting office workers around the world. If you work nationally or internationally, you’ve probably experienced a conference call. But what does the future hold for the technology? Does it really need to be developed further or does it serve its purpose well enough?
The evolution of conference calling
Just a few years ago, loudspeaker calls between rooms full of people were the norm. Trying to be heard through this system could often be challenging. Inappropriate room acoustics resulted in miscommunication, and sound delays played havoc with impatient CEOs. Frustrating meetings that were terminated by connection issues were far from rare.
Video conferencing becomes the norm
Move forward a few years and video conferencing services like Skype and Google Hangouts have all but replaced the traditional conference call. Seeing your colleagues whilst having a conversation had great benefits, such as receiving the nonverbal elements of communication that help strengthen relationships. Combine this with Skype’s screen sharing capability and you’ve got a business service that helps streamline projects that are being carried out over hundreds or even thousands of miles. Nevertheless, it’s not all perfect; the service is subject to its own issues. Large group calls over video often run into similar situations to their phone conferencing ancestors; delays and connection drops are still not all that rare, and looking at a pixelated version of your regional manager will hardly deliver the nonverbal signs of communication the tech was hoping to achieve.
Can traditional face-to-face meetings be the answer?
So, if connecting via a phone or screen is not working, why not opt for face-to-face meetings? Flying staff around the world for meetings is becoming harder to justify. It’s expensive, bad for the environment and can be extremely time-consuming for workers. That’s why video meetings have been slowly replacing face-to-face meetings for many people. So what’s the next step in technology HND Computing Students should be aware of? Enter conference calls 3.0.
The big three – VR, HHolographic and AR
There are three technologies currently at the forefront of improving video conferencing – virtual reality, holographic and augmented reality.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR for entertainment has long been considered the next evolutionary step. For business purposes, however, it has been somewhat sidelined. But VR may just be the technology to truly disrupt how we work. With flexible working becoming more popular, VR has the ability to create a virtual office space in which everyone can work together, no matter their location. Imagine jumping out of bed, slipping on your headset and booting into the office. There you’ll be able to move around to others’ desks, check in with their workload and have a simulated face-to-face conversation. This is business and conferencing brought together to form a new kind of working environment.
Holographic technology is perhaps considered even further in the sci-fi realms than VR. Indeed, it’s still in its infancy, however, there is potential to innovate conferencing and cross location meetings in a unique way. Holographic image manipulation (think J.A.R.V.I.S from the Iron Man films) could revolutionise presentations. Imagine having a meeting projected holographically into an office thousands of miles away whilst the host generates, manipulates and discards 3D images from the project as if they were real objects. Tech is growing fast in the area, with Apple at the forefront of the research.
Probably the most recognisable of the three options – augmented reality products have already been introduced for earlier adopters. Google Glass made a big splash when it first launched (as did Pokemon Go), although the hype appears to have died down somewhat recently. Augmented reality works by using the real world space you’re in and superimposes CGI images as an overlay. For group presentations, this offers an innovative way to deliver information. Augmented reality could be used to create an interactive meeting room; presentations would be carried out more like gallery exhibitions and the presenter would act as more of a curator of the information. Again, in a boost for flexible working, all could be carried out remotely.
What do you think the next step is for business communications?