How tomorrow’s technology is solving today’s meeting room challenges

Ever looked out over the room during a virtual conference call and try to figure out who’s talking? Or wondered why a certain conference room is continually booked without a soul inside?

Those are common problems today’s offices face, and they’ll be even more apparent when your employees return to the office in the coming weeks. Most are spinning up virtual meetings from the comfort of their home office, no extra cords or inputs needed – and they don’t have to fight for private meeting space (well, except maybe with their kids).

Luckily, we have some advanced solutions at our fingertips to replicate that ease in your office. According to our 2020 State of the Meeting Room Survey, meeting leaders want to invest in next-gen technologies – specifically artificial intelligence (56%), machine learning (56%) and natural language processing (57%). Each of these technologies will play a critical role in the “smart” meeting room, whether it’s managing room inventory or ensuring a better experience in-meeting.

Let’s take a look at the challenges these exciting new technologies can help up overcome:

Artificial intelligence: Who’s talking now?

When everyone is in the same room, it’s simple enough for attendees to turn to the person who’s speaking. We add a layer of complexity as more people “beam” into the room via videoconferencing. Most web conferencing solutions can detect who’s speaking and display their video, but that’s easy when only one person is on screen. How do we create that same level of visual engagement when one person speaks to a room full of employees?

Artificial intelligence helps us reduce the times we must play “Where’s Waldo?” Using AI, we can track voices across the room, allowing the camera to find the speaker and keep them in-frame. As AI solutions become more advanced, they’ll be able to identify the people entering the room using facial recognition and keep a running transcript for each employee – making it easier to keep track of each person’s responsibilities post-meeting. It’s all about creating as personal of an experience as possible between offices, or from an employee’s home to their office.

Machine learning: Who kept the room booked?

Room utilization can be a challenge for many offices – teams booking the wrong size room, or booking a recurring meeting in the largest conference room and leaving it empty. And no one wants to face the awkwardness of starting a meeting only to find out the room was doubled booked.

In other areas of your office, data is king. As we seek to address these utilization challenges, it’s about to take the meeting room crown as well. Machine learning helps us collect room utilization data over time, so that we can see which rooms are continually booked but not used (a “zombie room”), or are booked by groups of 2-3 people when they’re designed for 12-15. We can also use machine learning to track which rooms see the most technical challenges, and target the IT team’s efforts on those areas.

Right now, sensors can detect when a room has been empty after five minutes – but as the technology advances, we’ll be able to detect vacant rooms the minute the last person leaves. This allows businesses to better manage meeting room inventory, reduce energy consumption, and ensure everyone has access to collaborative space.

Natural voice processing: Alexa, when does my meeting start?

Automation plays a key a role across today’s business. But until now, it seems to have eluded the meeting room. That’s unfortunate, as launching a meeting can be time consuming. If a meeting leader walks into the room five minutes early, but has to tangle with the monitor or the WiFi for 10 minutes, they’ve still lost five minutes of productivity.

Natural voice processing – the technology that powers Alexa in your kitchen, or Siri on your phone – is finally changing that. An Alexa tied to a specific meeting room’s schedule can launch the room to the team’s specifications the minute it hears “Alexa, start my meeting.” Lighting is set to the correct standards, and any necessary programs appear on the monitor. As the technology evolves, the next step is for the Alexa device to search for and beam info directly to the screen. This comes in handy when you’re seeking an answer that’s better read than heard: imagine asking Alexa what lunch options are available in the office cafeteria, and having the complete menu instantly appear in front of you.

The future of meeting rooms is here

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing are already impacting the meeting room – and as the technology grows more advanced, demand for more meeting automation and less frustration will also grow. If you’re not already leveraging these technologies in your meeting room, the time is now.

At RoomReady, we’re implementing a range of next-gen technologies to ease meeting woes. If you’re ready to bring your meeting rooms out of the stone age and into the space age, read more about our solutions here.