Face the Music: Zoom’s Latest Feature Puts an End to Hiding in Meetings

by / ⠀News / June 28, 2023
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In today’s rapidly evolving work landscape, where hybrid work models are becoming increasingly prevalent, video conferencing tools have become indispensable for seamless communication and collaboration. Zoom, a leading video conferencing platform, has unveiled its latest feature, Intelligent Director, aimed at revolutionizing the way participants are seen and engaged during meetings. This innovative feature is designed to overcome the challenges of large boardroom meetings, where participants often resort to sitting far away from the camera, leading to a loss of connection and engagement.

Zoom’s rise to prominence can be attributed to the global pandemic, which forced organizations worldwide to adopt remote work practices. However, as we transition into a hybrid work environment, with companies demanding employees to return to the office, Zoom is adapting its software to meet the needs of the evolving workplace. The Intelligent Director feature is a testament to Zoom’s commitment to offering an exceptional video conferencing experience that bridges the gap between remote and in-person participants.

Zoom’s Intelligent Director feature is designed to ensure that all meeting participants, regardless of their location in the boardroom, are seen up close and personal. By leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms, the software focuses on each participant’s face, displaying their image in a box on the screen and tracking their movements. This eliminates the “bowling alley effect” commonly observed in large boardroom video meetings, where participants tend to sit as far away from the camera as possible.

The Intelligent Director feature, an extension of Zoom’s existing Smart Gallery video feeds, goes a step further by utilizing multiple cameras strategically placed in the boardroom. This enables the software to select the best camera to track participants head-on, ensuring eye contact and enhanced engagement throughout the meeting. With the capability to track up to 16 meeting members, this feature is suitable for mid-to-large sized boardrooms.

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Behind the scenes of Zoom’s Intelligent Director feature lies the power of machine learning. The machine learning algorithms analyze the video feed from multiple cameras to detect and track participants’ faces and shoulders. It’s important to note that Zoom’s system does not collect any biometric data but rather focuses on recognizing figures based on their proportions. This ensures privacy and data protection, addressing concerns raised by rights groups in the past.

During a demonstration, Zoom showcased the software’s ability to detect not only real individuals but also cardboard cutouts of people, exemplifying its accuracy in identifying figures with faces and shoulders. This emphasizes the system’s versatility and adaptability to various meeting scenarios.

While Intelligent Director offers significant advancements in meeting engagement, there are a few limitations to consider. The software currently cannot differentiate between individuals inside the meeting room and those outside. As a result, passersby may briefly appear as talking heads in the meeting until they move out of view. However, Zoom acknowledges this limitation and is actively working on refining the feature to ensure it accurately recognizes only those figures meant to be in the meeting.

To leverage the Intelligent Director feature, specific hardware compatibility and system requirements must be met. While it doesn’t work with off-the-rack webcams, certain cameras, such as the AVer Cam550, Poly e70, and Yealink UVC 86, are designed to seamlessly integrate with the feature. It’s also necessary to use an Apple M1 chip or an Intel i5 processor-powered machine. Although only Windows and Mac are currently supported, Zoom has promised that more platforms would be added in the near future.

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Zoom’s commitment to innovation extends beyond the Intelligent Director feature. Earlier this year, the company announced its partnership with OpenAI, integrating AI capabilities into its platform. This collaboration enables Zoom to leverage OpenAI’s API to summarize chats, whiteboard sessions, and create meeting agendas. By harnessing the power of AI, Zoom aims to further enhance the productivity and efficiency of meetings, catering to the evolving needs of its users.

As hybrid work models become the new norm, Zoom continues to evolve its platform to meet the demands of the changing workplace. The Intelligent Director feature represents a significant step forward in enhancing meeting engagement, particularly in large boardroom settings. By leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms and multiple cameras, Zoom ensures that all meeting participants are actively seen and engaged, eliminating the disparity between remote and in-person attendees. With a commitment to privacy and data protection, Zoom empowers organizations to embrace the hybrid workplace with confidence.

First reported on Gizmodo

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