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How to give remote users a seat at the meeting table: Part 2 – Seeing and being seen

UV 30 desktop view

How to give remote users a seat at the table:

Part 2 – Seeing and being seen

We produced this two-part blog in response to a trend by many organisations to get people back in the office but recognising that there will invariably be remote participants in video conference meetings, including your customers. And our experience is that our customers are not talking about the remote user experience. And that is a mistake. 

In part 1 we discussed how to address audio challenges. In part 2 we cover the visual aspect of a hybrid meeting and take a look at some of the technology that enables remote users to better see what is going on in the meeting room, and be seen by in room participants including: 

Visual first too! 

In part 1 of this blog, we put audio first because it is possible for remote users to stay engaged in a hybrid meeting where the video is sub-standard, but not if the audio is poor. However, to optimise the experience for remote users you need to consider both at the same time. So, let us look at visual. 

In the past a remote user would see a large meeting room in frame, with meeting participants sat at the far end of the table, so it was not easy to see clearly who is speaking and the facial expressions of others in the room. Those in the room would typically see a small tile of the remote participants somewhere on the screen, again not being able to clearly see any active participation. 

In trying to provide better meeting equity the industry continues to introduce innovative solutions and utilise AI technology so let us look at some of the options available to you. 

Yealink group framing

Camera tracking and framing

AI is in use in many video conference PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) cameras today, even in all-in-one video bars. You may have heard some jargon around camera tracking or framing so let us cover off some basics:

Group Framing

Instead of seeing the whole meeting room, this frames the entire group on screen, which is ideal when you have smaller groups having active back and forth discussions

Instead of seeing the whole meeting room, this frames the entire group on screen, which is ideal when you have smaller groups having active back and forth discussions

People Framing 

This provides a close-up frame for each person in the room and presents them in a single stream composited gallery. So, for a remote participant it provides a close up of people in the room. 

Speaker Framing 

This zooms in and frames active speaker on screen, providing a close up. If no one is speaking, the camera will default to group framing. This is useful in meetings with several main speakers presenting. 

Presenter Tracking 

Sometimes a meeting requires the speaker to move. Other times the speaker is just someone that likes to roam – we all know people like that! Presenter tracking frames one main speaker on screen, then continues to follow them in real time as they move. This is useful when speakers are giving presentations, education lessons, or other active speeches to virtual parties. 

Video conference platform video layouts 

Zoom Rooms Smart Gallery 

Zoom led the way in cloud-based video conferencing and everyone else has had to catch up. So, whilst Smart Gallery was introduced in 2021 it remains a powerful feature for better meeting equity. 

Smart Gallery uses cutting-edge hardware and AI to create individual video feeds of in-room participants, giving remote participants a clearer view of them. It automatically adapts to people entering or leaving the room, so there is no need for someone to manage the room settings or constantly reposition the camera to capture everyone. 

With current support for up to three video streams, Smart Gallery separates in-room participants into their own individual video tile. This provides remote workers with a clear view of in-room participants, creating a meeting environment where everyone can communicate and collaborate in the same way.  

To use Smart Gallery all you will need is: 

  • A Zoom Room Appliance that supports multiple camera streams. Smart Gallery is supported by devices from Logitech, Neat, Poly, Yealink and DTEN 
  • Zoom Rooms version 5.12.6 or higher 

Other views are available: 

To address meeting room equity Microsoft has brought in Front Row (more below and not a budget option) and Google Meet, Cisco Webex and other vendors provide different layout options, but typically require in-room, manual setting changes. 

Microsoft teams room front row

Microsoft Front Row 

Microsoft has introduced Front Row which is designed to bring remote participants to the bottom of the window to as close as actual size as possible, so that they look like they are sat at table level. Main content sits above with space at each side form chat and notes. 

It is really designed to form part of a modern version of telepresence and is ideally used with a 21:9 single display, ultra short throw projector and curved single row seating. In combination Microsoft calls this a Signature Meeting Room. A Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro licence is required. 

Advanced VC software and camera combinations 

Both Zoom and Microsoft have invested in AI technology to enable an even better experience for remote users, in particular when there is a large meeting room with lots on in room participants.

Zoom Intelligent Director 

The video is a great demonstration of how Zoom Intelligent Director working in conjunction with multiple cameras overcomes the traditional issues associated with large meeting rooms for external participants. Such as people at the far end not being easy to see, hidden participants and sides of heads. 

With intelligent director’s artificial intelligence technology, everyone in a Zoom Room has their own place in the meeting. Building on the existing smart gallery feature for Zoom Rooms, the feature uses multiple cameras and the latest AI technology to determine the best angle of up to 16 individuals in a Zoom Room to display within a meeting. 

Intelligent Director works with multiple hardware vendors including Aver, Poly and Yealink and requires a Zoom Rooms licence, version 5.16.0 or higher 

Microsoft IntelliFrame

Microsoft IntelliFrame 

We all know that Microsoft continues to invest heavily in AI and in October 2022 they announced IntelliFrame. This delivers an AI-powered enhanced video gallery where participants sat in a physical meeting room can be seen in an individual tile as well as the normal room view. And that means remote users are better able to see interactions between in-room participants and their facial expressions.  

To fully utilise the power of IntelliFrame, Microsoft worked with Yealink to develop their intelligent 360° tabletop camera, the SmartVision 60, with the intelligent 180° front of room Jabra Panacast 50 due soon. Combined with intelligent cameras you get high-resolution IntelliFrame video tiles, people recognition and active speaker tracking in addition to a normal room view.  

But you can utilise Cloud IntelliFrame with existing cameras, albeit with reduced performance. 

IntelliFrame requires Microsoft Teams Rooms Pro licence.

Companion camera solutions 

Traditional front of room cameras do not always provide a clear view of meeting room participants. Some may be hidden, and any cross-table interaction may not be clear. 360° cameras try to provide a view of all meeting room participants, but in a hybrid meeting in-room participants will be looking to the front of the room to view content or remote participants, who in turn may see backs and sides of heads. So, combining front of room and tabletop cameras seems like a logical solution. 

Neat Center and Symmetry 

Neat Symmetry is Neat’s own auto framing technology providing up to 8 dynamic frames for Neat Bar and Neat Board and 15 for Neat Bar Pro. Neat Center is a companion device that sits on the tabletop and frames people in the meeting room face-on, ensuring remote participants can clearly see and hear everyone for complete meeting equity. Simple to set up, it can be positioned anywhere for optimal viewing and audio and better meeting equity. 

Logitech Sight 

Logitech has also introduced a new tabletop companion camera, Logitech Sight, which is designed to work in tandem with Logitech Rally to add an additional, center-of-room perspective to follow conversations between speakers, capture contextual in-room activity, and auto-frame participants for the best experience. Logitech Sight works with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet, providing a composite stream of up to 4 active speakers. Smart switching uses AI to automatically switch cameras dependent on which way the speaker is facing and is coming soon. For longer rooms and tables, it is possible to “daisy-chain” two Sight cameras.

Bespoke solutions for large and complex spaces 

The video conferencing industry vendors are continuously developing technology to improve meeting equity, whilst making it as easy as possible to use and install. Many of the solutions above are designed to address standard small to medium sized meeting rooms requirements and provide accessibility for most budgets. But when it comes to larger meetings or complex spaces such as town halls, the use of best-of-breed technology and an expert AV Integrator are necessary. And often, but not always, deeper pockets! 

Considerations 

The good news is that vendors are working hard to develop technology that provides better meeting equity. But which of these technologies best fits your organisations VC / AV set up and budget? And whilst in Part 1 of this blog, we stressed the critical importance of audio, in reality they go hand in hand as demonstrated by microphones talking to cameras for speaker tracking for example.  

To optimise your remote user experience, you need to ensure that your meeting rooms are appropriately equipped. However, arriving at the optimum solutions for your needs and budget is no easy task, so we always advise talking to an AV Integrator. 

Speak to an expert  

MVS Audio Visual is a commercial AV Integrator with a passion for anything audio visual. If you need our expertise to help with an issue you are facing with your current AV set up, or with a new AV project we would love to help.  

Contact us today  

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