Unified Communications Nation

Sep 19 2019   10:04AM GMT

Advanced huddle room technology improves experience

mlevine Profile: mlevine

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Video conferencing

Fitting huddle rooms with audio and video isn’t as simple as taking an offering meant for the boardroom and putting it in a smaller space. Due to their size, huddle rooms present a unique set of challenges such as camera framing and audio sensitivity. While an audio/video offering for a boardroom may not be the right fit, certain features considered native to the boardroom can enhance the UX for huddle rooms.

While huddle rooms may be growing in number, a study from San Antonio-based research firm, Frost & Sullivan, found fewer than 3% of these rooms are video equipped. Insufficient huddle room technology can lead to poor experiences that look like a small group of people crowded around a laptop. When huddle rooms provide a subpar UX it’s unlikely workers will leave their desks to use them.

Smart cameras for huddle rooms

Huddle room size makes finding the right video equipment difficult. Most rooms are small, but still require a field of view wide enough to encompass all meeting participants, as well as any whiteboards or other important visual information. Mounting a camera high on a wall may create a wide field of view but it doesn’t create a dynamic video experience, David Maldow, founder of market research firm Let’s Do Video in Davie, Fla., said in an interview.

Just as too little visual input can be confusing and prevent participants from getting a full and clear understanding of a meeting, too much visual input can be distracting.

“The problem with manual zoom cameras is that generally people fail to use them,” Maldow said. “The result is a meeting with a bad camera angle, zoomed out too much so the people are too small and far away, or zoomed in too much so people are out of view. The best thing about smart cameras is that they take care of this automatically so every meeting will be decently framed, greatly improving the typical experience.”

In a recent webinar on improving the huddle room video experience, Brian Phillips, product marketing manager at Poly, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., explained how focusing on advanced video and audio features can improve huddle room meeting experiences.

Huddle room design

What you need to design a huddle room

Smart cameras are the answer to finding the right framing without needing all users to be experts on video cameras. AI-enabled cameras can recognize who is speaking in the room and automatically move to focus only on the person who needs to be in frame, Phillips said.

Part of the Poly webinar included a demo of its Polycom Studio offering, which provides audio and video for huddle rooms and uses a smart camera to navigate framing visual information. Having the camera automatically frame only the necessary visual information creates a more focused meeting and eliminates the distraction of excessive visual information, Phillips said.

Adjusting audio for a smaller space

Audio is the most important part of any meeting. Without audio, it’s impossible to get work done, Maldow said. The right audio setup for a room helps cut down on distraction by creating an immersive experience.

“We are very aware of spatial audio,” he added. “If you are looking at someone in front of you and their voice is coming from a speaker behind you, it sends a clear signal to your brain that some technology is at play.”

To address the distraction technology can cause, speakers should be located in the same area as monitors to enhance meetings and cut down on distractions.

Microphone sensitivity also presents a unique struggle for huddle rooms. Rather than worry about whether the microphones can pick up on audio in the room to relay clear sound to those on the line, the smaller space of the huddle room can mean too much background noise.

Some best practices, such as not snacking during meetings and putting devices on silent, cut down on excess noise, but they are not a cure-all. Environmental sounds such as keyboard tapping and chair scraping can also distract from a meeting. In smaller rooms, these noises are easier for microphones to pick up on, so offerings with features focused on cutting out unwanted noise are key to minimizing audio distractions, Phillips said.

AI-enhanced audio devices limit the amount of distracting noise by silencing microphones when no one is speaking. Offerings that have a specific field of audio are also helpful in filtering out unwanted noise from outside of the huddle room, Phillips said.

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