Zoom Continues Pursuit of Frictionless Meetings

Cloud video communications provider Zoom yesterday announced several enhancements to its Meetings and Zoom Rooms product suites, aiming to satisfy ease-of-use requirements of end users and enterprise IT administrators.

On the Meetings Front
Previewed at the Zoomtopia user conference last September, speech-to-text recording transcripts are now ready for their full enterprise debut as part of Zoom's Meetings cloud-based video and Web conferencing service. With this feature, enterprises can toggle on transcription for meeting recordings to receive a text transcription that includes who is speaking, when, and timestamps. In addition, users can search by keywords within the recording transcript, Nitasha Walia, senior product manager at Zoom, told me in a briefing. The production release includes an automatic scroll feature for search, whereas scrolling within the beta was manual, she added. Zoom provides this feature through its partner AISense, which provides the machine learning component that allows transcription capabilities to improve over time with use.

While Zoom initially intended this functionality for those who miss meetings or want to review points made in a meeting, its beta customers identified several other use cases. For example, the transcription capabilities are proving useful for assisting those with accessibility issues, such as people with hearing problems or language barriers, Walia said.

Also new for Meetings is the ability to view 49 video feeds on the desktop screen at once, in a 7x7 arrangement. Previously, users could view a max of 25 video feeds on one screen, in a 5x5 arrangement. This feature upgrade is aimed at events like all-hands meetings or, in education settings, lectures.

The new format "increases engagement because you can see more people," Walia said. "It's easier to connect visually."

On the Zoom Rooms Front

Zoom has untethered its scheduling display (a tablet with Zoom scheduling software) it provides for conference rooms outfitted with its Rooms video conferencing system. Organizations that have purchased at least one Rooms account, for $49 monthly, can download the Zoom scheduling software on their own tablets and distribute them to any meeting or collaboration space regardless of whether it's outfitted as a Zoom Room.

Zoom is offering more flexibility for Zoom Rooms setup as well. "It used to be that you had to physically set it up and connect the control app to the room because you needed to sign in as an admin," Walia said. "Now it's more common to outsource room setups, and you don't want to give the admin username and password to people." To this end, Zoom now offers the ability to set up and pair a Zoom Room system with the controlling display using a six-digit string.

Additionally, Zoom Rooms is now available in unlimited trial offers that allow companies to try it out for as long as they need to feel comfortable with the solution. Organizations can leverage existing hardware (a monitor, video, and tablet) to start their free trials.

Zoom's goal is to make setting up new rooms really easy, for users and IT admins alike, Walia said. "Anyone can do it -- outsource or admin," she said.

This product news follows on partnership announcements Zoom made earlier in the month. Zoom has partnered with OpenExchange to provide video communications for the financial services market, as well as with an unnamed global telehealth integrator to create a full-stack enterprise healthcare suite.

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