This post on the history and future of meeting collaboration comes from Frank Mehr, AVI-SPL SVP of Research and Development. Frank has been involved in developing, building, and supporting the collaboration experience for 30+ years.

It was 1982 when I created my first video capture device. Back then the focus was proving it could be done. Simplicity, accessibility, and cost were not the priority. That approach continued for decades in the video conferencing space.

How did we get here

In the early 2000s, we made advancements with high-definition video and Telepresence, but bandwidth was still an issue, and cost was prohibitive. If employees did have access to these systems, they were hard and scary to use for the average person. Too many remote controls, an order of operations that had to be followed, and too many variables impacting quality.

By the 2010s, the collaboration industry began to transition from hardware-heavy solutions to software and the cloud. And there was a paradigm shift with the idea of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). We also started to see the emergence of more people working remotely. People needed to meet with colleagues, partners, and customers both locally and across the globe. Teams and departments were no longer in a single location.

My development teams, as a reference, were in China, France, India, and across the United States, while I sat in New Hampshire. However, quality and access could still be an issue. Organizations did not allow cloud applications, downloading software without IT permission could be a struggle, and many users still had bandwidth limitations. As we moved toward 2020, we saw a convergence of all things collaboration. This required not just video-enabled meetings, but also the highest quality monitors, room audio, and additional innovations. And all of this needed to work together, not in silos.

Now we are in the middle of yet another paradigm shift, hurried due to global issues. The simplicity, accessibility, and entry cost that was missing is at the center of technology deployment and usage, along with a new requirement of flexibility.

The future of meeting collaboration

We expect better and easier solutions for work, but let’s not accomplish this from scratch. Let’s instead learn from areas like home automation, but make it enterprise level. At home, you can turn your lights on by a simple voice command or script, while having your thermostat know your presence in the room and self-adjust. After we have automation, what you will see is the inevitable merging of automation with some level of artificial intelligence in meetings.

For example, when looking for a room and inputting your attendees, your AI-powered scheduler will recommend the best room with the best devices for that type of meeting. A meeting room will be prepared for its purpose — for example, if presentation will be used, it is accessible and loaded at start time, not needing user input. Whether meetings are video-enabled, local, executive, presentation-based — these all need input to make these data-driven decisions. Today, we are still using a 30-year-old concept. These are the near-term future changes.

If we look further down the timeline, we will see the convergence of home technologies with business productivity needs, along with such things as virtual reality, which is being used in the gaming industry. This will change how we visualize such things as lecture halls and training sessions and even a normal collaborative meeting. We see some attempts today to change our current methodology, but they are in early stages.

Remote collaboration has found its way to the masses. Making it easy and seamless and intuitive is the challenge that will be resolved in this decade.

I’m proud and excited for AVI-SPL Symphony helping to lead this charge.