AI in the Meeting Space – Round Table
Is there demand for Artificial Intelligence in meeting rooms? With Logitech, Cisco and Lifesize
Artificial Intelligence is no longer the technology innovation of the future. Once restricted to Sci-Fi movies and far-fetched ideas, AI is now a standard component of the communication and collaboration environment. Whether in the form of chatbots that help to manage self-service journeys for modern customers, or appearing in the guide of intelligent IVRs, AI is everywhere. The question is, in the age of team collaboration, does AI also have a place in the meeting space?
For many modern companies, the meeting is still a crucial way to gather information, share insights, and ensure that team members are working on the same page. Unfortunately, according to The Muse, unproductive meetings are responsible for wasting more than $37 billion each year. Could AI help us to overcome the unproductive meeting once and for all? We spoke to Logitech, Lifesize, and Cisco to find out.
Is There An Appetite for AI in the Meeting Space?
Before any disruptive technology can thrive, there needs to be a prominent market for it. So far, we’ve seen a demand for artificial intelligence in the collaboration space, the contact centre, and even the customer engagement arena. Now, it’s time to see whether artificial intelligence could play a critical role in meeting rooms too.
Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration, EMEA at Logitech:
Ginn said that the way that we’re using office space is changing drastically in the modern landscape. With half of the UK workforce predicted to be working remotely by 2020, there’s no doubt that the workplace is changing. Companies are looking for new ways to create collaborative cultures that support new ways of working. “This includes optimising existing meeting rooms and other office areas, as well as equipping remote employees with the right tools.”
While it’s still early days for AI technology, businesses are beginning to discover the benefits it can bring to the meeting room. Vendors have started to incorporate AI into their existing offerings, making solutions easier to use, and smarter. ” One great example of this is in the area of video conferencing, where significant improvements have been made both in hardware and software solutions.”
“While it’s still early days for AI technology, businesses are beginning to discover the benefits it can bring to the meeting room” – Anne Marie Ginn
Bobby Beckmann, CTO of Lifesize:
“There is an appetite for AI in meeting spaces, whether those are physical or virtual. In the budding “quantifiable workplace,” there’s a distinct collective desire to make productivity truly measurable and get the most ROI out of meetings, without interrupting workflows.”
Lifesize believes that AI can quickly distil vast amounts of information and transform it into the kind of insights businesses need to fuel decision-making processes. “Because meetings incorporate multiple sources of video, audio, content and other data, business leaders have identified them as fertile ground for analysis and those critical insights, it’s just a matter of determining what the outputs will (or should) be and how AI can assist in producing them.”
Lorrissa Horton, Vice President / GM of Webex Teams, Jabber and Intelligence at Cisco:
Horton told us that knowledge workers are now looking for AI to improve their meeting experience more than ever. People want AI to help them connect with colleagues and ensure that they can access contextually relevant information.
“Cisco recently conducted a survey with Dimensional Research, which determined that 90% of knowledge workers said they want to adopt cognitive collaboration capabilities as soon as possible. These capabilities include digital assistants to help manage meeting tasks, relationship intelligence to help them better connect with their colleagues, clients, and prospects and contextual information to help them get their jobs done.”
Are Businesses and Those within Them Ready for AI?
While the appetite for AI in meeting spaces might be there, it’s crucial to ensure that businesses are also ready to embrace this new technology. Excitement and interest in new technology are great, but the attitude and infrastructure needs to be available too.
Logitech told us that the adoption of AI will always depend on the business in question, and its level of maturity in regard to digital transformation, and innovation. “Having said that, our experience shows that progressive businesses are very open to exploring the opportunities AI offers. For example, we released Logitech RightSight last year, initially for MeetUp and most recently for Logitech Rally.”
Anne Marie told us that customers have shown significant interest in RightSight – the tool that automatically frames meeting participants in a conference room. This technology significantly improves the meeting room in a variety of ways. “Office-based attendees can participate fully in the meeting itself rather than managing the scene via fiddly remote controls, and remote attendees will see everyone in the room.”
Lifesize’s Bobby Beckmann noted that he believes the business world is ready to embrace the promise of what AI can offer. However, he can also see that there’s a lot of work to be done in educating people about what AI can do.
“Right now, that knowledge only resides within the most advanced IT teams and solution providers themselves – to most others, AI is still a little like black magic. And, as with any technology, a lack of understanding how a technology fundamentally works and the material impact it can deliver almost always prevents ROI from being realised.”
“…AI is still a little like black magic” – Bobby Beckmann
Lorrissa Horton from Cisco noted that her company is beginning to see a growing number of companies adopting and taking an interest in AI. Intelligence allows companies to become more efficient and productive, which is crucial for any workforce.
“The top concern for many organisations is around data handling and privacy, so it’s important for companies that are looking to leverage AI capabilities choose a partner and provider that designs AI features with data handling and privacy as a top priority.”
What Is the Biggest Benefit of AI Used in the Meeting Space?
With a clear growth in demand for AI solutions and a growing openness to adoption, we asked our roundtable companies what they considered to be the biggest benefit to AI in the meeting space. In some cases, it may be the ability to manage meeting notes and calendars more effectively. In other environments, the promise of AI might create more productive meetings. Here’s what our experts said.
In Logitech’s opinion, some of the biggest benefits of AI in the meeting room include more efficient meetings, better user experience, and better-optimised use of assets. For participants, AI allows for the automation of the meeting experience, so users need to spend less time fiddling with technology.
“Computer vision and machine learning deliver improvements in video quality by automatically improving lighting, gaze correction, and automatically focusing on the people who are speaking. And someday, new technologies such as natural language processing (NLP) could help facilitate better meetings by automating distracting tasks, such as note-taking, actions allocation, and optimising audio quality.”
Ginn also told us that facility and IT managers can benefit from using AI combined with meeting room analytics to better understand how their meeting rooms are used. This allows for better control of room occupancy and utilisation.
According to Bobby Beckmann of Lifesize, the most significant benefit of AI is gathering and analysing the data that will allow for better context in meeting environments. Lifesize believes that many conference spaces can often lack real-time direction. AI can objectively collect streams of data to help keep a conversation on track and remove human bias.
“Multiple cameras in a meeting room or conference call can be paired with AI to keep the pulse of the mood in the room. By analysing participants’ faces or body language, it can be determined if people are engaged, whether there’s free-flowing conversation or a dominating presence, or what’s on the whiteboard and how it’s being interacted with. AI can even analyse the vocal patterns, body languages or faces of users to determine who is using what tools.”
Cisco’s Lorrissa Horton told us that there are many distinct benefits to using AI in meeting rooms, including more effective and efficient meetings, better team synergies, and a more productive workforce.
“AI is transforming the way people work – not only giving them more time back in their day to focus on high-value initiatives but also making the meeting experience itself more pleasant. Our goal at Cisco is to make in-meeting experiences that rivals in-person collaboration and AI is the way to achieve it.”
“AI is transforming the way people work…” – Lorrissa Horton
What Steps Should Businesses Take to Implement AI in the Meeting Room?
Even with the right appetite and adoption strategy for AI present in today’s business environments, there needs to be a plan in place for implementing this new technology. That means considering carefully which vendors you need to work with, ensuring that you have the right infrastructure in place, and more. Our industry experts told us:
Ginn at Logitech says Integrating AI into meeting room equipment doesn’t need to be complicated. At Logitech, the team strives to make video conferencing as affordable, scalable, and simple as possible, so that companies can access it anywhere.
“Technologies like Logitech RightSense are implemented at no extra cost through a simple software update, meaning there’s very little required of our customers to take advantage of this built-in intelligence in their meeting rooms.”
Beckmann told us that implementing AI into the meeting room needs to start with taking stock of how spaces and meetings are currently managed. Businesses need to address the collaboration and communication challenges that their teams face and decide on areas where improvements can be made. It’s also essential to have measurable goals in place to track the success of an implementation.
“Make a defensible business case rather than getting caught up in the hype and buying into AI solely for the sake of being ‘cutting edge'”.
Beckmann also noted that companies need to make sure that they have the right talent and expertise in house or through a partner to take full advantage of AI solutions integrated into their existing stack and infrastructure. ” AI solutions should essentially run in the background and be an additive tech ingredient rather than a distraction. Businesses need to evaluate and select solutions that incorporate AI (or don’t) based on your organisation’s specific needs, use cases, and technology maturity level.”
Beckmann also pointed out that it’s essential to test, tweak, and tailor AI solutions to deliver the right insights over time.
According to Horton, the implementation of AI into the meeting room needs to begin with the evaluation of the existing environment. This will allow users to determine whether they have the right environment in place to support an AI transformation. From there, companies can choose a solution for AI that provides collaboration tools, contact centre solutions, and communication environments. This end-to-end environment will make it easier to leverage AI capabilities across the whole business.
Horton also noted that businesses need to ask providers for information on how data is collected and managed by AI. “Before rolling out AI features, communicate with employees, and work with your provider to answer common AI questions, especially around data handling and privacy. Companies also need to set success goals like feature usage, room utilisation, time spent in meetings, and video adoption.”