COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of videoconferencing technology—it became the way we stayed in touch while working, learning, and living remote from one another. As the pandemic response evolves, most organizations are transitioning to a hybrid model, where some are on campus or in the office while others join in from remote locations.
Not only will AV technology be needed in rooms where it was not before, but there is also an increased need for specific technologies like automated camera solutions. To accommodate social distancing, those on site will need to gather in larger spaces with fewer people in them. Smaller huddle rooms will be used less frequently. More rooms will need to be equipped for videoconferencing since meetings or classes that did not involve remote participants before now will.
In the past, to capture a corporate training session or university lecture for later viewing, a single camera and lavalier mic may have been sufficient. Now, customers are demanding AV integrators to install more cameras and mics in a room so that all participants can be seen and heard, not just the presenter. While working from home, people have become accustomed to the close-up views they see in laptop-based conferencing: one person per webcam. They will expect the same close-up views of those in larger meeting spaces. A wide shot of a large room with people socially distanced will not be effective when presented gallery style; no one would be visible in the small frame of the conferencing platform.
But if the cameras in the classroom or meeting room focus on whoever is speaking or presenting, the far end participants will see them up close, just like all remote participants. Automated camera solutions make this possible with no IT staff needed and touch-free operation.
An auto-tracking camera can follow a presenter as they move about so remote participants see them and can see what they write on a blackboard. Voice-activated camera switching solutions that work in larger spaces by detecting where the audio is coming from based on the mics in the room can automatically control high definition PTZ cameras with 20x zoom to cut to the best camera and focus on whoever is speaking. People appear larger on screen, closer to how they would if they were directly in front of a webcam. With a minimal number of properly placed cameras around a room, good camera angles are possible for all participants.
Universities and corporations are all adopting this technology now. Universities are motivated to give students the best possible hybrid experience, so they do not defer their educations, and schools have CARES Act funding to support this goal. Corporations want employees to remain motivated and engaged and productive.
Upgrading rooms now is an investment for the future as well. Hybrid work and learning is not limited to the COVID-19 pandemic; flexible work and learning options are here to stay.
Rony Sebok spoke at the 2020 AV/IT Summit on AV in a Post-COVID-19 World panel.