Hybrid Work: Video conferencing in 3D is coming

Hybrid Work: Video conferencing in 3D is coming

The future of work is shaped by hybrid work. To make meetings more realistic, video conferences should take place in 3D. One solution is Cisco Webex Hologram. […]

After the remote work of the corona crisis, the era of hybrid work is coming. Because the Germans have developed into office muffles after their experiences in the pandemic – or “German employees hate the office”. Thus, almost 60 percent continue to work entirely or at least partially in the home office. This creates a working environment that poses new challenges for managers and IT: How can this working environment be designed in such a way that employees on site and remote colleagues can work together on an equal footing? How can remote participants in meetings not feel discriminated against their colleagues in the real meeting room and also be aware of all discussion contributions?

One approach on a technical level is to hold video conferences in 3D in the future. In the eternal race for the state-of-the-art collaboration tool of the big three Zoom, MS Teams and Cisco Webex, Cisco has now added. Cisco Webex Hologram is designed to add the third dimension to video conferencing.

Cisco, for example, has equipped the studio of Wall Street journalist Markus Koch with hologram technology to connect the virtual with the physical world. Guests from Germany can be streamed three-dimensionally into the studio on Wall Street. Thanks to the virtual appearance, there is no time-consuming journey for the studio guests. The trick: For the virtual 3D appearance, the image of the studio guests is projected as a hologram onto a life-size, semi-transparent mirror.

The result looks convincing and vividly plastic, but should hardly be usable for everyday life in German meeting rooms, because on the one hand the space will be missing, on the other hand the lighting conditions will hardly be comparable to a TV studio. On the other hand, Webex Hologram, which is already being delivered to selected beta customers, is designed more for everyday office use. The charm of the solution is that it does not require any aids such as semi-transparent mirrors, but uses augmented reality headsets to create a 360-degree viewing angle. AR glasses such as the Magic Leap or Microsoft’s HoloLens can be used.

In this way, Webex Hologram is intended to give a feeling of physical presence in meetings by providing real-time photorealistic holograms of the participants. Another potential area of application at Cisco is in training, especially since physical and digital content can be shared. For example, a car manufacturer could share a physical prototype of a vehicle virtually as a hologram so that employees can examine the engine and the underbody of the prototype. In addition, digital elements such as design renderings could be included to complete the impression of the future model.

Another application scenario would be the introduction of new machines or devices. Using Webex Hologram, employees could be trained remotely and still see the device in its actual size in front of them and look at it from every angle. Especially in pandemic times with corresponding travel restrictions, this should be interesting for many companies. The tool also supports a “one-to-many” presentation mode. At the same time, each user receives a multidimensional experience that, unlike other offers, is not limited to the use of individual perspectives.

The luxury headset developed by Bang & Olufsen and Cisco is said to cost $ 549 (c) Cisco

Cisco does not currently provide any specific information on general availability. Webex Hologram will soon expand the Webex Suite. Video conferencing in 3D is certainly the most obvious innovation for Webex, but Cisco is also improving in detail to make its platform fit for the hybrid work world. Cisco, for example, promises to improve voice quality with AI-controlled audio intelligence. The voices should be equally loud to all participants regardless of location.

In addition, the algorithm distinguishes between intended speech and distant background noise. If you want the ultimate listening experience, Cisco and Bang & Olufsen have something in store for you from the beginning of 2022: Together, the partners have developed the luxury headset Bang & Olufsen Cisco 980 – recommended retail price 549 dollars.

At the same time, the group is working on improving video quality. Starting in December, the camera function People Focus promises better clarity and an optimized display of the facial expressions and body language of the participants in the room. In the future, more emphasis will be placed on interoperability. Webex devices are designed to support Zoom, Microsoft, and Google – regardless of device or platform.

To further promote virtual collaboration, there is the Webex Whiteboarding feature. It allows users to create, find, edit, and share whiteboards with anyone – including people outside of their company – using any device, be it a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Of course, Cisco recommends its own devices such as the new Webex Board Pro. The digital whiteboard has a built-in video conferencing option, two 4K cameras, directional audio, two active stylus pens, and a 55- or 75-inch high-resolution display. The 55-inch version should cost $ 11,995 in this country.

Webex Whiteboard Pro with integrated Video Conferencing option (c) Cisco

Similar to Microsoft with Teams, Cisco is increasingly relying on the integration of apps at Webex. For example, solutions from Webex subsidiary Socio Labs and Slido can be used directly – for example at hybrid events. In total, more than 60 partners have already announced the integration of their apps – including Smartsheet, Hacker Rank, Thrive Reset, Miro or Mural.

Apps from over 60 partners integrated with Webex (c) Cisco

Despite all the enthusiasm for hybrid work, after one and a half years, many users in the home office now also experience a certain video conferencing fatigue and too many video conferences are perceived as stress – a development that Cisco is tackling with several approaches. One of them is the Webex Collaboration Insights feature. It gives teams an anonymous insight into working time patterns, sentiment assessments and goals. For example, a manager can determine whether many of his team members are working late into the evening and may therefore give negative reviews. As a solution, he can then take proactive measures to fix the problems.

The Thrive Reset function is designed to prevent fatigue and stress in meetings. To do this, users can download pre-installed “resets” on a number of topics or upload personal photos that will help them focus on breathing, take a fresh look at problems or just get up and stretch.

Modern technology makes it possible: although the children frolic, nothing is heard of it thanks to AI (c) Cisco

According to Cisco, research has shown that 60 to 90 seconds of distraction are enough to get you going again.

Vidcast gives employees the ability to communicate asynchronously in a “meeting”. This not only facilitates collaboration across multiple time zones, but also opens up the option to participate in a conference if it fits into your personal schedule. For this purpose, discussion contributions are recorded and can then be viewed at another time – the answer can also be delayed. Competitor Zoom recently introduced a similar function with continuous collaboration.

To increase the feel-good factor, Cisco is now bringing color into play with its Webex Desk devices. Colours such as First Light, Carbon Black, Woodland Green, Nordic Blue or Desert Sand are now entering the world of IT grey. At the same time, the series is expanded by a Webex Desk Mini. With the device, which has a 15.6-inch screen, video conferences can be held almost anywhere. Prices start at $ 1,695.

*Jürgen Hill is Chief Reporter Future Technologies. The graduate journalist and computer scientist currently deals with current IT trend topics such as AI, quantum computing, digital twins, IoT, digitization, etc. In addition, he has a long-standing background in communications with all its facets (TK, mobile, LAN, WAN).

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