In the first of this series of blogs, I discussed the history and future of videoconferencing cameras, in the second I discussed the hierarchy of rooms\/spaces\/environments for visual collaboration. This \u2013 part three \u2013 is about how to use the darned things.\nFrom the earliest days of technology in enterprise conference rooms the user interface (UI) has been a contentious, problematic and difficult part of users\u2019 satisfaction with that technology. All UIs have to achieve a balance between simplicity and power. The more that they can do, the harder they are to operate. So because videoconferencing has traditionally been hard, the UI has needed to do a lot to meet the needs.\nWhen I worked for Michael Bloomberg he once described to me his vision of a perfect UI as consisting of two buttons. Pressing the first would read his mind and do whatever he was thinking he wanted. Pressing the second would make both buttons go away till he needed them again. While I\u2019ve been striving for that simplicity for the many years since he mentioned it, we\u2019re not quite there yet \u2013 but we\u2019re closer now than ever.\nLooking back at when videoconference rooms first came to the enterprise, they came with the same hand-held remote controls we used to use for projectors and TVs. The problem with them was that you needed more than \u2018power, volume and channel\u2019 to operate a videoconference device. These remotes were packed with buttons \u2013 and complexity \u2013 which put-off typical users.\n\nI remember attending an industry conference in the 1990s where a videoconference manufacturer was giving away miniature footballs to people that stopped by their booth. In order to get one you had to line-up to operate their video system with a remote. If you were able to complete a call you won a football. I suppose it was intended to get people to understand how easy they were to use, but in retrospect it only proved that using complex remotes was such an issue that you had to give away stuff to get people to even try them.\n+ MORE VIDEOCONFERENCING: +\nMoving forward in history, many larger enterprises abandoned the hand-held remote in favor of the control system and touch-panel. This was definitely a good idea \u2013 tying all of the room\u2019s components into one system and UI that would operate everything. However, like Apple\u2019s Newton or DeLorean\u2019s car the execution of the idea turned out to cause more problems than it solved. Instead of creating a universal, standard interface to control all aspects of the needed technology, the control system created a boondoggle for room integrators.\nHere they could create custom-programmed masterpieces, with sub-menus under sub-menus, company logos and colors plastered all over the screen, and a button and indicator for every possible function. Instead of being easier than the remote control they were often much more complicated \u2013 and much more frightening to operate for the typical end user. This was because the technical teams and engineers programming them were designing systems that could handle any possible scenario \u2013 a wise precaution for a technician, but one that led to an experience that left the typical user in the dark. In addition to that, because these panels were all custom-programmed, a given enterprise could have dozens of different versions in different rooms to accomplish the same thing.\n\nIn the mid 2000\u2019s the videoconference manufacturers decided enough was enough and began creating their own touchpanels and UIs (assuredly with the idea that they couldn\u2019t get any worse.) One-Button-To-Push (OBTP) was a trend started by Cisco and eventually embraced by most manufacturers. This was the idea that the room you were walking into would already know you were coming and what your meeting needed to dial to connect. All you would have to do is walk in and push the button.\nA perfect idea \u2013 but regrettably one for a perfect world. In the real world however, sometimes the person walking into the room was the janitor\u2026or an employee that shouldn\u2019t be connected to a confidential call. Additionally, sometimes you found you couldn\u2019t get to the room (or city) that your call was scheduled in \u2013 you\u2019d have to take it from somewhere else. Those were all scenarios that made the simplicity of the original OBTP fall apart.\nThe next (and current) wave of room UI is really a blast from the past \u2013 the audio conference call. Most organizations have embraced dialing a central number or URI and entering the code for their conference. This is much easier and more reliable than trying to develop a complex dial-plan and\/or enterprise directory, and usually means the only controls needed on the UI are dial-pad\/keyboard and perhaps volume\/mute. (As I mentioned in my blog on cameras, the need to move and zoom cameras will soon be a thing of the past as hardware and programming automatically perform that function.)\nAs far as the future goes, we\u2019ve seen glimpses of that already as well. It turns out you\u2019re already using the next UI and generally love it. It\u2019s your smart device.\n\nYou probably already carry around a smart phone that knows who you are and who your next video meeting is with. Now all you\u2019ll have to do is decide what device or room you want to take the call on. You can have that videoconference on your smart device, or if you go to a room with videoconferencing technology it will automatically recognize your smart device and let you take the call on it. No additional UIs will be needed. Rooms will be as easy to operate as your personal smartphone \u2013 and custom programming will go away.\nGetting to the ideal UI for videoconference rooms has been a long, tough journey. Now that all the controls will be as easy to use as our smartphone it will finally allow everyone to concentrate on a video call\u2019s content instead of its set-up.