Let’s get it out of the way: meetings suck.
Granted, many are productive but they require, at the very least, for you to leave your comfy cube and haul your laptop, notepad and BlackBerry into a conference room. At worst, you’re hopping into a car or boarding a plane; not the most eco-friendly options, truth be told.
Teleconferencing has promised to alleviate this to an extent, but in these lean times it’s no wonder that management is balking at $100K-plus setups from Cisco and HP. What are travel averse workers to do?
Microsoft Research thinks its closing in on economical yet immersive remote meetings thanks to the minds driving the Embodied Social Proxies (ESP, clever) project forward. You see, most online meetings give you a webcam’s eye view of the proceedings, but think for a minute about how you behave in an in-person meeting.
You’re unlikely to be staring at your fellow attendees’ faces; that would be creepy. But that’s about all a webcam captures, not to mention the sense of “presence” you lose by not picking up on nuances by simply being in close proximity to others on their team.
Those are some of the stumbling blocks Microsoft Research is hoping to overcome with George-in-a-Box.
So the project members outfitted George-in-a-Box with two more cameras. One, stationed above the monitor, is a pan-tilt-zoom camera operated via remote control, enabling the remote participant to focus on a whiteboard, an individual speaker, slides being projected during a meeting, or team members at a conference-room table.
A third camera, affixed with a 140-degree, fish-eye lens, is stationed below the George-in-a-Box monitor, enabling the remote user to view practically everybody in the room, see their responses, watch who’s looking at whom, and gain environmental awareness at what is occurring in the meeting room.
Currently, George needs to be carted around. But imagine a compact George, or any other team member for that matter. Or devices that can be “possessed” by your telepresence via a laptop, or dare we dream a smartphone… Could be fun and functional. The mind reels!
Be sure to read the rest of the article. Interesting times we live in…