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What’s Next in Cloud Meetings?

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One of the emerging missions communications and collaboration providers will be tasked with is to how to augment memorable and immersive experiences for users -- especially for an increasing number of remote workers that will need to experience richer, more equitable and inclusive meetings. This is clearly seen in the messaging from multiple providers that are exploring more and more with advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and gamification elements.
 
After Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco Webex and others accommodated more than 500 million knowledge workers during the sudden demand for cloud meetings in 2020 -- with years of innovation being squeezed into just few months -- people might ask themselves what could be next? Feature parity among leading cloud meeting providers has significantly shortened to only months of differentiation between cloud meeting enhancements such as virtual backgrounds, filters, reactions, live transcription/translation, video cropping (into scenes, presentations, and shared content), white boarding, polling, and more.
 
In spite of today’s rapid advancements in the cloud meeting realm, some in the UCC industry believe that an area of future improvement will be the delivery of immersive and memorable experiences. Several believe that pre-pandemic tools weren’t created to mimic the natural rhythm and important rituals found in office face-to-face interactions, and they do not accommodate the inclusivity needs of a growing number of remote workers in the world.
 
In a recent Frost & Sullivan global survey of 1,129 IT/telecom decision makers, 43 percent of respondents believed that more than half of their labor force will work from home on a part-time or full-time basis by 2022. However, there are still different challenges to be solved that go beyond today’s meeting services to help remote workers feel a little bit less isolated. Some of these challenges revolve around the need to:
  • Re-create the serendipity moments of actual physical work.
  • Create bonding, relationships, and camaraderie with workers, partners, and customers--something that has been reduced recently.
  • Feel as if you are present, with other people, in the space.
  • Re-create the control power available in a physical space, deciding who to interact with, what to listen to, and where to be.
  • Feel accompanied “live” with other colleagues, instead of on an ad-hoc basis.
  • Boost emotions, via the recreation of different meta-verse worlds.
  • Boost creative thinking between colleagues.
What all the above challenges have in common is that they ask for mainstream cloud meeting providers to go a step further from their traditional video grids layouts in order to accomplish immersive and memorable experiences.
 
What elements will help to change the current nature of online meetings? It’s likely that this important change will require a mix of tech, including elements from VR, AR/MR, and AI all wrapped up in video game-like experiences. After all, we know gamers can spend hours and hours in virtual realities without fatigue, as opposed to standard online meetings. Multi-party gaming drastically grew in 2020 across all generations.
 
Before the pandemic, the demand for VR and AR/MR tech for work purposes was limited to specific vertical use cases (e.g., health care, manufacturing, energy, etc.) and the immersive nature of VR and AR/MR technologies did not make much sense in white-collar offices. Also, the usage of gamification elements inside of enterprise communications and collaboration services was limited to specific cosmetic scenarios within a meeting.
 
Conclusion
As the Frost & Sullivan global survey demonstrates, a substantial percentage of workers will be collaborating remotely for the next year, and it is imperative that vendors deliver the technology to meet the challenges they face in being able to contribute productively and feel like they’re part of the team. The rise of VR and AR/MR technologies can do so. Next time, we’ll look at several start-ups that are trying to solve remote work isolation by creating 2D/3D online spaces, incorporating gamification elements, and asking how to make this work without a big provisioning load or expensive hardware.

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