Examples of Artificial Intelligence Improving the Meeting Room Experience
Imagine the room system of the future: your team is gathered together in your favorite meeting room, collaborating in the generation of ideas for future product features. Each time someone makes a suggestion, it’s automatically added to the whiteboard using a virtual post-it note, sorted by category. There’s a lag in the conversation, as the team struggles to come up with more ideas, so the room system jumps in with another suggestion, which sparks a new flow of ideas. “Would you like me to order pizza?” the system asks after assessing the tiredness level of the room. The team enjoys dinner together and finishes up the brainstorm. The technology to support this type of smart meeting room system isn’t 100% market ready, but it’s closer than you might imagine.
There are a number of ways companies can currently take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the meeting room experience. At Enterprise Connect, Microsoft announced a number of updates, including a whiteboard feature that uses computer vision to display the part of the board behind the writer.
Beyond computer vision, which allows for 3D object detection and identification, there are several examples of artificial intelligence fields relevant to meeting rooms. Natural language processing (NLP) translates raw human speech into meaning, powering voice assistants and translators. Sentiment analysis, a sub-field of NLP, detects emotion based on a person’s choice of words. Building on sentiment analysis, emotion recognition also incorporates tone and computer vision-based facial analytics. These fields lead to a few areas where the advantages of AI play an expanding role in room systems: meeting analytics, virtual assistants, and meeting augmentation.
Advantages of Artificial Intelligence for Meeting Analytics
Bad meetings are a constant frustration for workers, and although AI meeting analytics is a nascent field, the potential for impact is huge. There are a number of early meeting metrics that are currently available, including data on who spoke and for how long. Although this sounds simple, the ability to not only interpret speech but to identify the speaker is a major advancement. More immediately useful is data on how many people were in the meeting room, as this offers insights into room utilization and future planning.
In the short term, we look forward to advances that can alert managers if the same topic has been discussed for more than a certain threshold. The system could identify the type of meeting and show short summaries for anyone interested. Further down the road, deep learning will be able to not only indicate whether a meeting was good or bad but also identify the cause and suggest improvements. Emotion recognition would also allow the system to identify which participants were skeptical or confused about a new plan, and send a note to the presenter to follow up with some material tailored to those individuals.
Enabling Virtual Assistants
NLP-powered virtual assistants are ubiquitous in the consumer world, and they are rapidly expanding to business. Amazon recently announced Alexa for Business, which offers a number of interesting meeting room-focused features. Alexa has a basic set of controls that allow users to start and end room system meetings, as well as make meeting room reservations. Alexa for business is available across a number of different room systems, including Polycom and Zoom.
While Alexa can extend reservations when prompted, near future advances could allow a virtual assistant to automatically do so if a team is only part way through the agenda. With proper permissions in place, these assistants could answer questions as they arise, querying a company’s entire file system. They could assign tasks and even nudge the meeting back to the agenda. Looking further out, virtual assistants will be able to attend a company’s webinar, agreeing with the speaker or asking softball questions from the audience as appropriate. They could even participate in meetings as proxies, espousing a specific point of view and offering a summary afterward.
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Augmenting the Meeting Experience
There is a myriad of ways room systems can benefit from the advantages of artificial intelligence including increasing the effectiveness of meetings. Although primarily intended for a non-office environment, Microsoft’s background blur is also useful for meeting rooms adjacent to busy hallways, for example. Zoom also offers similar functionality for background replacement, which can be used as a virtual upgrade to potentially outdated meeting room decor. Background noise suppression has already greatly enhanced the meeting experience, and transcription allows meaning to come through when it is challenging to hear someone. More advanced users can take transcription capabilities one step further with machine translation.
Soon, however, real-time translation will assist global teams to stay better connected. Beyond identifying participants, room systems will be able to pull up relevant information on meeting attendees. In the more distant future, not only will there be a translation, but there will also be localization. While participants in a meeting room in San Francisco talk about highways, their counterparts in Philadelphia hear “turnpikes.” International teams can use idioms they are comfortable with and be confident that the meaning is transferred on the other side. Not only will meeting rooms be able to improve meetings, but they’ll also be able to improve the presenters themselves. Systems will be able to remove filler word usage and adjust the presenter’s tone or messaging based on what is resonating best with the audience.
While the current set of advantages of AI in meeting room systems provide limited value, there are numerous interesting examples of AI applications that will very soon be within reach. Existing capabilities have built a tremendous foundation, and the state of AI is advancing daily, with the help of more data and computing power than ever before. With such powerful meeting room systems, making sure they stay up and running is a top priority.