Throughout history, people have gathered “in the round” for social exchanges, problem solving, and decision-making. This phenomenon was not a planned configuration where people jockeyed for advantage, rather a natural response to the need to sit in an equitable arrangement where people could see and be seen more easily. The setting fosters understanding by allowing individuals to look into the eyes of everyone with a simple look across or to the side. Beyond the visual benefits, people feel more relaxed and comfortable to share new ideas in the non-hierarchal environment.
As gatherings evolved into more formal meetings, rectangular, trapezoidal, and square tables replaced the social aspect of the circle arrangement. This change created a physical and emotional barrier for people and gave new place of stature for the most important person in the room. People leading this formal meeting now sat at the end of the table while others sat in rank along the sides. The natural inclination of people was to sit facing the end of the table, ignoring those on their left and right. The traditional meeting room was clearly focused on a ‘presentation-style’ experience where individuals disseminate information and make assignments for work to be done outside the meeting.
Over many decades, technology was added to enhance the experience locally and even to extend into virtual locations. Flip charts were replaced with projectors, phones were replaced with quality conference phones, TV’s added for one-way information. When video conferencing was introduced, the logical place was right where the TV sat making it into a video portal for virtual participants. As technology advanced the screens got higher resolution, larger, and flat, but the placement stayed the same – video conferencing was stuck on the wall.
What designers failed to recognize is the need to make the formal meeting collaboration-focused. There was an evolving need for a collaborative space that allowed working groups to gather for extended periods of time to brainstorm and work through their most challenging problems together. The need for a collaborative space has gone underserved – until now.
The culture at Polycom has fostered innovation and challenged developers to think differently.
The first observation that Polycom researchers acknowledged was that the view of virtual participants from the local side is inequitable. Because of the formal seating arrangement, the most important person in the room often finds themselves the furthest away from the monitor with the smallest view of the wall-mounted monitor at the end of the table. Conversely, the lower ranking people have a 2x or 3x wider field of view. The next time you’re in a traditional conference, sit at the end of the table and hold your cell phone up to eye level and you’ll see what I mean. The tables grow longer, monitors get bigger but the view of the far site stays the same.
The second challenge identified was the remote participants view and their ability to engage with others. Remote persons have a less than optimal view of the conference room. Long conference tables dominate the scene with a high percentage of the display dedicated to wood, PCs and microphones – not exactly a stellar view. Often, the person with the least to contribute to the meeting is seated closest to the camera and VIPs are the furthest away at the head of the table. Moreover, the remote person is often left out conversations and feeling inadequate.
The third challenge identified is the difficulty presenting content. When in a traditional conference, presenters logically sit wherever the VGA or HDMI cable comes out of the table so they can present their content to the others. This method works for meetings where one or two persons are presenting information, but fails in collaborative meetings when several colleagues need to share content. This can make passing the presenter cable really hard to do - especially with virtual participants. With wireless technologies available everywhere it only makes sense to be able to share content from your personal device from the comfort of your chair.
With these three challenges to collaboration identified, the work was clear: create a collaborative solution that provided an equitable view of the far site, improve the view for remote participants, and build a collaborative experience that’s delightful to use as much in a call as it is out of a call.
Today, Polycom announced RealPresence Centro, the first visual collaboration solution purpose-built to put people at the center of collaboration, enabling teams to meet in a circle to brainstorm, and solve their most challenging problems. The innovation that makes Centro is nothing short of astounding. With Centro, each person in the room can sit on comfy chairs or couches with equitable views around the room and on remote sites with a simple glance. Far sites see active speakers larger with contextual 360° views to see reactions and gain better understanding. Anyone in the call can share valuable content with a simple touch from his or her personal device, keeping everyone on task and engaged.
Early customer engagement has solidified the research and proved the new approach for a truly collaborative experience. Dave O’Rourke, Director HomeAway Video and IT Operations at HomeAway stated, “Polycom nailed every single piece that I was looking for in a device that you could roll around and collaborate with instantly.” (Watch the video with HomeAway.)
Beyond the great audio, video and content you’ve come to love from Polycom – there are so many other delightful features. Some of these features include:
USB charging ports located around the unit to keep phones and tablets ready at all times
Touch-sensitive displays allow unsurpassed ease-of-use to enter calls by selecting a “join now” icon placed by integration with personal or room calendars
TV-style video compositing is so smart that you never have to touch a remote for an amazing experience showing “stacked panoramic” views, people standing or sitting in an optimal view
For facilities leaders, the turnkey design rolls right from the create on industrial strength casters, and require only a network and power cable. Once connected, Zero Touch Provisioning has the system in calls in fewer than 20 minutes.
In short, there’s no detail that’s been left out of RealPresence Centro. The thoughtful design has revolutionized collaboration where working groups can meet in an intimate circle setting to brainstorm and work through complex challenges. Want to experience even more of RealPresence Centro? Watch the video to see the unit in action.
In the coming months we can expect to see early customer experiences, rollouts, and reviews. Please check back often onwww.polycom.com for the latest news and updates.