During a recent visit to Polycom’s executive briefing center in San Jose, we got to see some cool demos that are helping Polycom continue to differentiate its service. Polycom has been well known for its high-end video conferencing and collaboration room systems for some time, but we were reminded during the visit that the company also has a wide range of systems that are compatible with less-structured environments.
Two demos were especially fun, showcasing what Polycom calls “audio bubbles” and “audio fences.” Anyone who has been on a conference call or video bridge agrees that background noise is distracting, and it is hard to avoid when including a large room of people or in a room that may not be purpose-built to manage sound quality.
During two separate demonstrations, we saw (and heard) one distant video conference participant enter and leave a “bubble” of sound that enabled HD-quality audio when inside the “bubble” – but kept dead silence when stepping outside the audio bubble. Similarly, an “audio curtain” allowed a remote video conference hosted in a company cafeteria where we could see ping-pong players and lunchtime conversations going on in the background, but the speaker’s voice was the only HD audio we heard.
We also saw Polycom’s continued progress with Microsoft Lync integration, showcasing a next-generation room system that featured an HD touchscreen and control panels that offered very simple interfaces on PCs, single-screen video monitors, and mobile devices. Polycom has provided native Lync client end points since 2012, and it continues to show a leadership role with its integrated Lync features.
Finally, we saw an unobtrusive table top system that used multiple cameras and mirrors to capture video images, supplemented with facial recognition and audio software that provided a 360-degree view of the room and participants and with HD-quality audio and video. (For those who remember the experience, it was akin to the “America the Beautiful” film shown on the 360-degree screens in Disneyland years ago.)
Our observation: while all the cool stuff was fun, it also reminded us how far video collaboration has come since that first ISDN video experience we had 20 years ago. With an ever-increasing range of screens and features, we look forward to seeing what the next 20 years will bring. And if we’re still writing this newsletter/blog, no doubt we will still be able to tell you we were impressed.