Intelligent Meeting Rooms: How AI Is Reshaping Meeting Room Experiences – and Raising New Issues

As organizations navigate the balance between implementing cutting-edge AI technologies in meeting rooms, they will need to address potential concerns related to privacy, security, and user acceptance.

4 Min Read
Business people video conferencing in a conference room meeting

This article originally appeared on No Jitter.

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the way meetings are conducted and the advent of intelligent meeting rooms helping organizations improve the dynamics of collaborative environments for in-person and virtual participants.

AI-driven technologies can help bridge the gap between remote and on-site employees, enhancing the collaboration experience and increasing productivity.

For example, AI-enabled scheduling systems can intelligently organize meetings based on participants' time zones, working hours, and preferences, reducing the stress and time it takes to coordinate across various locations. 

In addition, AI-driven transcription services can also convert spoken words into written text during meetings, making them more accessible and streamlined.

Concerning recent developments in intelligent audio and video technologies, tools have evolved to adapt to spatial challenges during video conferences to focus on the participants in the room and eliminate any distractions.

Deploying AI Directors 

Among the most recent advances for AI in meeting room experiences focus on "AI directors" taking speaker tracking to the next level by tracking a speaker across multiple in-room cameras with different viewpoints, switching camera feeds dynamically to provide the best shot possible.

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Gartner analyst Christopher Trueman explains these multi-camera AI directors are designed to address the challenges of hybrid meetings where some participants are virtual and other joining from one or more conference rooms.

"In a hybrid meeting environment, in-room participants struggle to achieve the same sense of presence in the meeting as virtual attendees," he says.

In-room attendees have traditionally been represented only by a single thumbnail video showing the entire conference room, perhaps with panning and zooming to frame to active speaker.

"Compare this to the 'Family Squares' style videos for virtual participants where everyone has their own camera feed focus on them," Trueman says.

He explains initial developments by vendors focused on providing two camera feeds from the front of a single conference room.

This could be achieved with a single camera though software, however, for higher-end room kits, many manufacturers (such as Logitech) opted for a dual camera setup.

With a dual-camera setup one camera would typically provide a wider field of view (say 120-degrees) while another with provide a narrower field of view (say 90-degrees).

"Both cameras would typically be 4K resolution to provide sufficient resolution for panning and zooming within the video captured without noticeable loss of quality--most meeting solutions target a 1080p resolution," Trueman says.

The wider camera would capture the room at large and could be used to track speakers sitting close to the camera, while the narrower camera would pick up speakers at the back of the room.

The most recent developments by vendors allow for over half-a-dozen cameras to be mounted across all four walls of a conference room and the AI will dynamically compose, swap and frame in-room participants.

He points to vendors Crestron and Cisco, both of which have been doing a lot of work in this regard.

"It should also be noted that new monitoring technologies and room occupancy sensors, while not of immediate notice or benefit to employees, are increasingly being used by firms to gather the necessary data to make informed decisions about further investment in their meeting rooms," Trueman says.

Addressing Flexibility, Privacy 

Beau Wilder, global head of future customer experiences, hybrid work solutions at HP, says these advancements help address the challenges of flexible work environments.

"They facilitate more productive and efficient workflows, allowing participants to join wherever they work from, whether that’s in the office, at home, or on-the-go," he explains. "By creating future ready solutions, we can enable hybrid workers to show up and stand out while providing a more inclusive collaboration experience."

From his perspective, the key to unlocking the potential of AI lies in prioritizing data privacy and using the technology responsibly.

"By doing so, organizations can confidently and optimistically navigate the AI-driven landscape, tapping into a future where technology serves us without sacrificing our privacy," he says.

Wilder recommends organizations ensure AI-powered AV products are secure by choosing devices certified for major meeting providers such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom.

"These certifications indicate that the devices have been rigorously tested to safeguard private conversations, providing an extra layer of protection in our digital communications," he says.

Deciding on the Business Case

When assessing the financial case for investing in AI for meeting rooms, Wilder says the key stakeholders include AV/IT decision makers, leadership including CIOs, and CTOs, and end users.

"Effective decision-making requires these groups to work together, ensuring technological decisions align with organizational objectives and employee needs, while maintaining privacy and data security," he says.

He adds there should be a phased approach to integrate technology seamlessly throughout the organization, to mitigate potential risks and safeguard data.

For some companies, with occupancy and usage numbers at all-time lows, it may not make financial sense to invest the significant capital required to upgrade their meeting rooms.

Trueman says as organizations navigate the balance between implementing cutting-edge AI technologies in meeting rooms and address potential concerns related to privacy, security, and user acceptance, approaches vary widely from one organization to the next.

"Geography and industry have big impact on policies as well," he adds. "Facial recognition or voice print recognition technology exists today which could easily identify and label every individual in a meeting room."

However, many companies (even many vendors) are hesitant to deploy such solutions widely due to the privacy and user acceptance challenges they would face.

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About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITProToday and covers various IT trends and topics across wide variety of industries. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, he is also a documentary filmmaker specializing in architecture and urban planning. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

No Jitter

No Jitter, a sister publication to ITPro Today, is a leading source of information and objective analysis for enterprise communications professionals and decision-makers faced with rapidly evolving technologies and proliferating business/management challenges.

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