Imagine an automated meeting room, whether it be a conference room, lecture hall, or council chambers. Someone walks in. The displays turn on automatically, the lights dim or brighten to the right level, previously configured for the type of meeting you are having.
Cameras focus on whoever is speaking, switching seamlessly from presenter to audience member, when required. Inconspicuous microphones pick up high-quality sound. Recording or conferencing begins automatically, on schedule, or by voice command. If a presenter walks around the room, a camera automatically follows them.
Content displaying on a computer is also seamlessly incorporated. And completed recordings transfer automatically to a desired location.
This is not a meeting room or lecture hall or training room of the future. All the technology exists today to make this a reality.
Whereas earlier attempts at hands free rooms were costly to implement and required sophisticated custom programming, the solutions available today come pre-programmed with all the smarts built in.
As a result, they are designed to integrate with an array of devices from other manufacturers so that you are not locked into one vendor’s products.
What makes this all possible?
The latest AI technology, for starters, which includes facial detection, motion sensors, and natural language understanding. Many of these new technologies have become ubiquitous (and therefore lower cost), because they have been developed for the consumer market.
Think of Siri or Alexa for voice recognition, motion sensing cameras for home security and smart home products that activate lights and thermostats when night falls and temperatures drop.
Innovative companies are now incorporating these technologies into solutions designed for the commercial AV market for education, corporate, and government use cases.
Let’s look at some examples:
For huddle rooms and smaller automated meeting rooms that may be used by one or more people for video conferencing, cameras are now available that automatically frame based on the number of people in the room.
If there’s only one person sitting in a large space, the camera detects this and zooms in automatically, so those viewing will see the person up close rather thana lot of empty room space. Without such advancements, a person used to have to pan, tilt, and zoom a camera manually, from a touch panel.
Now the camera does this automatically by using motion and face tracking. This frees meeting participants to focus on the meeting and eliminates the need for a dedicated camera operator.
In larger spaces filled with a lot of people, an automated camera can find a handheld microphone in the audience and zoom in on the person holding the mic for a close-up shot.
And in lecture halls and training rooms or any meeting space with a presenter, auto-tracking cameras can smoothly track a person walking around. Intelligence built into the camera’s firmware can detect faces and motion which improves the tracking performance so much that it can reproduce the experience of a live camera operator, without the cost or need to hire and retain staff.
For the meeting or lecture or conference that requires more than a single camera or camera angle to adequately capture the relevant participants, automated solutions are also available today.
Sample applications include multiperson panel discussions or a council chambers meeting or a town hall Q&A. Intelligent automated production solutions can switch from camera to camera to follow the dialog and when combined with the smart cameras described above, give the experience of a fully staffed production crew.
These automated meeting room solutions also can combine two camera feeds into a single side-by-side shot or picture-in-picture with content in the way a sophisticated production switcher might, but without the need for a person to operate it.
Automatic start/stop times can be assigned so that meeting participants do not even have to push a single button when the meeting begins.
The need for greater access to video conferencing, video streaming and video recording in institutions was evident well before COVID-19 sent people home, as video has become the common language for corporate communication and remote learning.
Now that people have become even more familiar and adept with this form of interaction in recent months, the demand for rooms being equipped with cameras and simple conferencing will be greater than ever.
The good news is that equipping hands free rooms with automated camera solutions is simpler and less costly than ever before.
The simple experience with close-up views that people have become accustomed to at home can now be deployed enterprise-wide for efficient communications once people can return to their offices for work.
The way we work and learn is evolving. With improvements in bandwidth, easy-to-use software conferencing solutions and automated camera solutions in meeting spaces, it will be much easier for people in remote locations to join meetings or classes and feel like active participants. This will improve productivity and bring people closer together without costing a lot.
Automation in AV will enable more rooms to be equipped with video and give a better end-user experience without requiring dedicated AV staff in room after room. This is a big win and comes just at a time when end-users will be demanding it.