According to Jabra’s 2023 Hybrid Ways of Working Global Report, there has been a five per cent increase in people working full-time in the office in the past year and a nine per cent decrease in employees completing all their hours remotely.
Aurangzeb Khan, senior vice president of intelligent vision systems at Jabra, believes that the rise in employees returning to the office could be due to the collaborative environment it offers.
“The office is where you build social capital,” he says. “It’s where you have those serendipitous conversations, bump into people and do a lot of whiteboarding, and there is a lot of unstructured energy.”
However, organisations must equip offices with the right technology to support the needs of employees in the modern digital workplace.
“If the technology is not as good as it is at home, it takes away from the sense of productivity that the office can provide,” says Khan. “If people are trying to collaborate at the office, but don’t have the tools to do so, it can impede them in their work.”
In fact, only 15 per cent of employees said that all their office’s meeting rooms are equipped with video cameras for online meetings in Jabra’s report.
One way to help organisations adopt new technology is by introducing artificial intelligence-powered solutions that create an intuitive and easy-to-use environment.
Jabra is integrating AI into its products to create seamless and intuitive communication experiences for customers. One example is the intelligent zoom feature in the PanaCast 50 Room System, which automatically detects if the full range of its 180-degree cameras are being used, and if not, will reduce the field of vision accordingly so that just the participants are framed by the camera.
Also, Jabra’s virtual director uses AI to determine how the camera should move and frame the participants in a natural manner.
“Should the camera cut away from one speaker to the next, or should it pull out one or two speakers and place them next to each other on the screen?” says Khan. “How do you pan, cut and create that curated experience? We can’t hire a director to stand in our meetings and make these decisions, but AI can.”
Jabra is also combining video and audio AI capabilities to identify individuals on screen based on data about their faces and voices. Users that have opted in to some of the new smart features in Microsoft Teams can already take advantage of this technology.
“If you’ve enrolled your voice, it will recognise you when you are speaking, even if there are multiple people in one room and on one camera,” says Khan. “Your name will appear in the transcript Teams creates – it will be like having a a person in the meeting taking minutes with great accuracy.”
Being able to use video technology during meetings is also vital for improving the employee experience. The Hybrid Ways of Working Global Report found that 41 per cent of survey respondents said video is key to helping them feel involved during online meetings. Furthermore, 46 per cent believe that colleagues who appeared on camera seem more engaged than those who don’t.
“Video is how people build connection,” says Khan. “For example, if I am in a meeting and someone has their camera on, I can read their body language and see if they are happy, relaxed, engaged and so on. However, if someone doesn’t have their camera on there is no sense of presence and I can’t tell how they are feeling.”
To encourage people to turn their cameras on and actively participate in meetings, organisations must ensure the technology they implement delivers high-quality video.
“Many people don’t realise cameras have come a long way,” says Khan. “Jabra had a breakthrough by building its multi-camera array. “Our devices have three distinct cameras so you can bring in everyone, but without the kind of distortion that can come with older, or more standard, cameras that have a fisheye lens or similar.
“Distortion is an issue as it can lead to fatigue due to the brain recognising that something doesn’t look right, which causes mental dissonance. Our cameras preserve what we call human-scale fidelity, meaning everyone looks the same whether they are in the middle or on the edge of the frame.”
Jabra is continuing to work with Microsoft to ensure that users of Jabra products can make the most of the office experience through Microsoft’s Signature Teams Rooms, which are meeting rooms designed using Microsoft guidelines and can be used with Jabra technology.
“The signature rooms are designed to work around the technology we deliver including the PanaCast 50 video bar,” says Khan. “We are also introducing direct support for Microsoft’s IntelliFrame and finding more ways to integrate AI to support room booking systems. Organisations are looking for these things in the solutions they use so that they don’t feel as though they are being left behind.”
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription