“Now that I’ve been working from home for a few months, I have to say that telecommuting is both a miracle and an opportunity for innovation that, believe it or not, will make remote connectivity even better.
Author: NXP CTO LARS REGER
Now that I’ve been working from home for a few months, I have to say that telecommuting is both a miracle and an opportunity for innovation that, believe it or not, will make remote connectivity even better.
The miracle is that my home and device is a quintessential “edge of the network” computing, and I engage with research centers, partners, and teams around the world by phone or video conference. Our conversations interacted like they were both live, sometimes surprising: at City Hall last week, not only was my image projected onto a big screen so people could see me gesturing, but I could read their body language, and in order to elicit their real-time reaction.
Likewise, like many others, I use a variety of connectivity tools (from Skype to Facetime and Zoom) to keep in touch with family and friends, and we talk to each other and see each other as if we were in the same room.
Just not quite. This “virtual” engagement doesn’t replace being in these rooms together, either completely or nuanced, and I see an opportunity for innovation here. I predict that we will see huge opportunities to make the remote connection experience more complete, nuanced, and reliable.
Here are three areas that I think will break through:
First, there is. On a conference call, participants focus their attention on a TV or computer screen, which is streamlined and limited. For example, sound and images don’t always synchronize conversations.
This makes it hard to feel like we’re truly “engaged” in the experience, as we risk missing the subtleties that make it a reality, such as being able to notice the expressions of participants who are not speaking, and seeing participants’ body movements . In the real world, instead of relying on technology platforms, you can control how you think about any conversation.
However, technology can help remove this sense of separation by creating a more robust and fluid immersive environment where more computation is done locally, rather than just using remotely located servers to Process all data. This growing trend is called “edge computing,” and it’s already being used to make devices in homes and offices run faster and do more things at the same time. So it would be a huge leap to imagine remote conversations that are more immersive, say, video games, where players can control what they see and do by pointing.
Second, regionality. It is not enough to provide participants with a 360-degree visual view of the space they are in; sounds and images need to be placed in specific locations in geophysical space, just like in real-world conversations.
The technology already exists to provide such fine-grained audio positioning, and is being used in high-end entertainment sound systems that utilize larger speaker arrays and control software to resolve the sound, say, when you’re watching a movie, to put an explosion On the “side” of the room where the explosion occurred. But that’s just the beginning: video positioning means holography. I hope there is a lot of work to do to make the rendering more realistic.
But there may be other solutions; for example, I’m shocked by how personal texting feels even without any visual cues. Next-gen meeting details, such as meeting details, may depend on what other attendees say. Likewise, technologies such as ultra-wideband (UWB) could provide a mechanism to not only provide detailed feedback on physical positioning without visual effects, but also provide participants with more ways to interact with the conversation (eg, gestures can is an actionable trigger).
I think the days of staring at the speaker console in the middle of the conference room table will be over sooner or later.
Third, reliability. Being interrupted during a conference call is a common experience, as is trying to speak through (or get speaking from) another participant. Video calls can become choppy and may lag. Image resolution may vary.
There are a number of connectivity solutions that offer an opportunity for an evolutionary change to meetings, such as WiFi 6 (available today, capable of handling multiple devices, such as additional cameras or speakers) and 5G coming in the near future, which will enable faster Connect to the cloud.
We’ll explore new ways to capture and cache conversations, for example certain responses are triggered when subtle feedback is not needed (think audio/video emotes?), so some of the simplest interactions are pre-programmed, just Like the way some responses require a click when you’re texting. Going a step further, AI has the opportunity to become an actual participant in conference calls and video chats, helping participants communicate more efficiently, perhaps acting as a referee or translator to simplify conversations.
Imagine a lengthy back-and-forth, and then the AI player says, “It sounds like you’re saying XYZ and agree, so let’s move on to the next bullet point.” Making the remote meeting experience better may be about making the actual discussion more effective, not just Just to improve connection efficiency.
I still hope we can all get back to normal, but maybe the pandemic will be a new normal and I’m sure the lessons we’ve learned from it will stay with us for years to come. While I will continue to enjoy and rely on tools that allow remote connectivity, I think the innovation and development driven by our recent experience will also continue.