Guest contributor |
Artificial intelligence was once considered as futuristic as the metaverse is now. But AI now deeply impacts our professional lives – particularly in the meetings we attend – and will continue to change things considerably in the next few years.
Deloitte notes, in its report The Digital Workplace Reimagined: “To go from looking digital to living digital, the workplace must be redesigned to operate in synchrony and connect all workers to those they work with when, where, and how they need it – regardless of location, device, or time zone. Making the shift requires connecting worker experience to business outcomes. By putting workers at the centre of design, it becomes possible to create a digital workplace that transforms how people collaborate, get work done, and ultimately do business.”
One of the advantages that AI can bring is the ‘synchrony’ of workers for meeting, engaging and collaborating effectively, no matter where they are located. While conceptions of AI in popular culture often trigger images of robot assistants and AI takeovers, automation already has a firm grip on our lives, most frequently as part of the hardware and software we use without a second thought.
AI has many far-reaching possibilities, that undoubtedly have huge potential to change our future, but it’s in the more practical, everyday uses where we’re seeing the most immediate progress. Virtual meetings are one of the primary domains where AI can be a game-changer for professional productivity.
AI is already playing a role in ensuring meeting technology is more efficient and enables collaborative spaces. The main questions that AI addresses for companies are: ‘how do we make our work lives easier?’ and ‘how do we make virtual meetings feel more like in-person meetings?’ Just like most contemporary uses of AI, its advantage comes in the automation of the fiddly things that we prefer not to devote time to, enabling us to focus on being fully engaged and collaborative in meetings. Think about reaching for the remote to adjust volume or camera zoom; it distracts you (and likely others) from the topic being discussed.
AI makes virtual meetings smoother through the multitude of adjustments it makes to the audio and video capabilities, providing an ideal experience without having to make manual adjustments. Whether it’s auto-framing to capture the person, automatically adjusting volume levels as conversations ebb and flow, or noise cancellation and voice detection to help keep speech clear and understandable, AI is already doing a lot in the background of your meetings.
In the past, you may have found yourself constantly hitting mute and unmute to reduce disruption or turning your volume up and down on a video call. Nowadays the hardware and software we use for meetings is powered by AI, reducing the need for manual adjustments. These AI interventions often go unnoticed but have a big impact on lessening fatigue and increasing productivity and collaboration. Unnoticed is good, and a key attribute of effective AI.
But AI is not just impacting meetings with remote participants. There’s a large contingent of the workforce who will spend a significant portion of their time in the office, so the opportunity will be how to use technology to seamlessly bring everyone together. Innovation in AI will play a big part.
There is a variety of camera setup options to help participants feel like they’re in the same room. For a multi-camera approach, AI could detect who’s speaking and where they’re facing so if the person turns to a whiteboard or to someone in the room while speaking, virtual attendees still see their face and not the side or back of their head.
AI can also reduce meeting admin tasks like transcription, recording and translations. Summarising actions, setting up subsequent meetings and arranging follow-ups are common tasks that are almost always conducted manually. Developments in voice recognition will be key so AI can better detect who is speaking, what is being said, and most importantly, correctly interpret the context of each statement.
It’s easy to get caught up in the next big trend or focus on the most futuristic notions of what our workplace could be, but ultimately the future is predicated on human creativity, and it’s the technology that makes life more convenient for us that will truly unlock it. The best uses of AI would give people the time to focus on larger tasks or opportunities and boost productivity and efficiency. AI is already playing a significant role in meetings as we know them. For the meetings of the future, it will quickly become essential.
Martin Bodley is director and global head of Bose Work for Bose Professional
This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.