Robb Woods, BlueJeans Director of Business Value and Solution Strategy, is talking about the future of meetings, and everything points toward video meetings and video conferences being the norm.
Woods describes a future when the artificial intelligence being explored by Workfit, creators of Eva (who leverages artificial intelligence and speech recognition), will be helping us out in ways we have yet to imagine. Eva is described by her creators as “an intelligent meeting facilitator that helps people have more productive meetings by making meetings searchable, taking note of decisions, and encouraging follow-up on action items,” and Woods predicts that products like her will soon make video calls, webinars, and all sorts of meetings more efficient.
“I just got back from a vacation in Alaska,” he reports, “and of course while I was gone I got all sorts of invitations to video conferences that I couldn’t attend. But what if I had an avatar who could at least answer basic questions in my absence, take notes for me, and the like? ‘Robb, don’t forget this; Robb, do that next week when you’re back.’” But that’s not all: “What if that avatar could attend meetings with me over time, such that it would learn more and more about my job and my speech patterns. I would eventually be able to opt out of some meetings entirely. Or attend five meetings simultaneously!” This, Woods asserts, could really happen in the next five to ten years.
Another development we’re already seeing is that big hardware is going away in favor of software and ever-smaller communication devices. Previously, when you wanted to conduct a live video conference call or webinar, you needed a fully wired, dedicated conference room—one that probably cost a fortune to install and that possibly didn’t even work well.
“The way things are evolving,” says Woods, “We’re seeing less and less of the hardware infrastructure in favor of a service-based consumption model.” Certainly we’ll still have lots of devices—like the computers we call phones that are also cameras that fit in our back pockets—but given that all those devices have (better and better) cameras and (better and better) speakers and microphones, and services like BlueJeans can make sure the communications between them are as secure as they need to be, there will simply be less need for companies to invest in elaborate in-office hardware setups.
This will also accelerate another trend we’re already seeing: the demise of the fixed-site workplace.
“In my experience over many years in this field,” says Woods, “there are periods of acceleration, then periods where things slow down, usually so that the backend can catch up. For example, in video conferencing and live streaming in general we saw a period of rapid progress in 2010 and 2011, then a fallow period over 2013, 2014, 2015. I think it had to do with phone hardware catching up with people’s expectations of technology in general—for instance the image quality on the small screen had to match computer monitor technology, which has been highly advanced for some time.” Likewise, phone cameras had to catch up with what traditional SLRs can do (and it’s no coincidence that SLRs experienced a resurgence of popularity in those same catch-up years).
Woods also predicts that we’re going to see more consolidation, as big companies that previously weren’t involved in live, online communications such as video calling or live video streaming come to the table and want a piece of this emerging world. For instance, Microsoft has grown into cloud computing in a manner that is leading the market in many ways. Google has developed Hangouts, directly challenging Microsoft in the enterprise space. Late last year Amazon acquired Biba, a mobile business conferencing and messaging app.
“Even companies like Comcast will get involved,” Woods says. “They’ve got the home users with cable services, and they’re offering business-class internet as well. Why not start offering other sorts of business services that can ride on those networks, like the capacity for corporate online meetings, screen sharing, video calling, or teleconferencing—with guaranteed high-quality audio and video?”