Knock-Knock: Google's Duo quitely enters video chat

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Knock-Knock: Google's Duo quitely enters video chat

Google quietly announced Duo last week, its new videoconferencing application which is simple, transparent and should provide the best possible video experience for mobile devices. Google built a cleaver app that should top the charts for anyone frustrated with poor quality video while chatting on the bus or at the bar. The big challenge is convincing your friends to download it and call you.  

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GE:  Collaboration to Bridge the Executive Skyline

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GE: Collaboration to Bridge the Executive Skyline

GE is getting ready to move top 800 executives to a downtown Boston zip code, signaling a trend in multinational companies leveraging their Unified Collaboration (UC) strategy to provide virtual lifelines while physically isolating senior management from the remaining workforce. GE expects to benefit by association with Boston’s booming high-tech industry, but the company may be overestimating the maturity of today’s collaboration technologies and ease of executive product adoption. 

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HoloLens Altering Reality

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HoloLens Altering Reality

Ishii's words ring true twenty-four year later. Microsoft has synthesized the collaboration interface inside the user’s mental perspective. Now we have “gaze awareness” 

“Through the iterative design of these collaboration media, we believe it is most important to respect the skills that people use in everyday life. The design focuses on basic skills such as drawing, gesturing, talking, gaze reading, and using computers. We believe skill-based design will lead to cognitive seamlessness.”

— Hiroshi Ishii, MIT Media Laboratory (Beaudouin-Lafon, 1999, Pg.98)

 

With the introduction of the HoloLens almost to the day of Bell’s birth, let’s take a moment to thank Ishii and all the other scientists who have contributed to bringing us into the world of augmented reality. Moore’s law has prevailed.

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Building Collaboration to the Culture Code

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Building Collaboration to the Culture Code

The placement of media stations should not be equidistant or ubiquitous. Each office has unique cultural preferences that encourage collaboration and influence employee recruitment and retention. The integration of multimedia into collaboration zones and walk-up stations is critical to the success of this culture-centric strategy. The results are transforming the workplace. 

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Putting Collaboration in its Place

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Putting Collaboration in its Place

When it comes the future of the huddle rooms, IT and multimedia managers may no longer be in the driver seat. Open office planners are tearing down walls and putting in pre-packaged media systems that foster interpersonal communication. This new office culture could have a profound impact on the organization’s overall collaboration strategy, increasing the demand to interconnect and unify the experience across collaboration spaces and conferencing rooms.

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Collaboration: Space planning for the Digital Nomad

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Collaboration: Space planning for the Digital Nomad

The Nomadic worker is “unchained” from the desk and frequently on the road. Since this workforce will be expanding over the next five years, and characteristic of the millennial generation, their collaboration requirements are an important component to future space planning. 

 

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What Entrepreneurs and Nomads Can Learn from Hackathons

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What Entrepreneurs and Nomads Can Learn from Hackathons

A study of thirty-eight hackathons found that radical collocation contributed significantly to programmers rapidly advancing their technical work, and the participants left the sessions with greater sense of social well being. (Trainer, Kalyanasundaram, Chaihirunkarn and Herbsleb, 2015). Nomadic workers share a similar collaborative intensity when they are thrust back into in-person collaboration at the home office: close proximity to their peers and continuous small team meetings. 

“The spatiality that proximity affords allows team members to easily move between activities, point to visible artifacts, mark them to reflect agreed-upon changes, and observe other participants moment to moment to identify members puzzled or deep in thought.”

— Trainer et al., 2015, pg. 2

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Audio Trumps Video in Collaboration Spaces

The importance of audio quality (microphones and speakers) used in the collaboration technology is proportional to the degree of language and cultural barriers. In today’s global workforce, one frequently collaborates with co-workers with different native language. Even Since foreign accents can make it difficult to communicate high context messaging, such as sharing expectations or giving feedback, the quality of the audio system in the huddle space is an important investment. Desktop headsets are not practical in huddle spaces. USB speakerphones with beam forming mic array activation work very well, but they can pick up background noise as far as fifteen feet away.  Huddle rooms built with four glass walls and no acoustical treatment are the worst scenario because reverberation reduces speech intelligibility that cannot be compensated by noise cancelling algorithms used in speakerphones . Open space Pods have less “bounce” and are my preference, but participants need to be within close proximity to the speakerphone; so use table and chairs and avoid lounge seating in Pods. Traditional videoconferencing rooms are best suited for language barrier situations because of their acoustic treatment and attention to microphone and speaker placement. 

Scott, C. (2014). Steel Case Media Scape 3. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/courtneys/4722781538

Scott, C. (2014). Steel Case Media Scape 3. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/courtneys/4722781538

Soft-based video systems fall short when there are language barriers because lips move at 24  frames per second and displays need to at least 50hz refresh rate.  More expensive cameras capture video at 60 frames per second, but only traditional videoconferencing systems connect at the higher frame rates (720p/60).  Here’s where the Cisco SX10 and 60hz refresh rate displays works well in huddle rooms. The higher frame rate makes it possible to see and transmit subtle body language. It is easier to overcome language barriers when lips are moving naturally and synchronized with the voice. Audio latency also contributes to language barriers, since some cultures wait for the other party to finish talking with others interrupt or jump in at the tail end of the sentence. Google Hangouts, which uses adaptive SVC algorithm (No Jitter, 2015), has exceptionally low audio latency compared to Skype and even H.264 AVC, and the ability to have as natural conversation as possible trumps all other collaboration elements.  

The significant audio problem with Skype for Business is that the compression method does not favor audio over video. Traditional videoconferencing algorithms like H.264 prioritize audio over video. With Skype, there is network contention, the audio drops out and speeds up to catch missing bits, or drops out completely.  Implementing Quality of Service (QoS) for Skype could resolve this problem over private networks, but QoS for Skype is a challenging undertaking requiring IT and voice teams to work together. Even then, the result will not resolve cross-network and external calling.  The worst situation is for remote workers that VPN back to office. There are significant challenges using Skype over VPN tunnels (Skype, 2015), and the most noticeable impact to the remote worker is inconsistent audio quality: works one minute, then it stops. Often, remote workers are blamed for poor internet service when in actuality it is the VPN architecture designed for data and not real-time transfer of audio packets.

WebEx and Ineffective Thumbnails

While audio is more important than video, avoid low quality thumbnail video experiences like WebEx for collaboration sessions with global participants, as they are likely to hinder ascertaining cultural context. In WebEx, video is optional. Only the most aggressive cultures will active their cameras. Less assertive parties rarely enable their camera even though video is a very important tool for their style of communication. If you are using Skype for business (Lync) or Cisco Jabber, adjust the size of the window. Ask participants to use wireless headsets or speakerphones so that they can step back from the camera so that you can see more of their body without reducing the quality of their voice. Avoid the temptation to ask these participants to speak up or sit closer to the camera, as their contribution will be inhibited if they are made the center of attention.  For challenging sessions, arrange a multi-point call and invite someone who can act as a cultural bridge. 

Bidness Etc (2015). Microsoft corporation (MSFT) to launch beta version of skype for business in office 2016. Retrieved from http://www.bidnessetc.com/37149-microsoft-corporation-to-launch-beta-version-of-skype-for-business-in-offic/

Bidness Etc (2015). Microsoft corporation (MSFT) to launch beta version of skype for business in office 2016. Retrieved from http://www.bidnessetc.com/37149-microsoft-corporation-to-launch-beta-version-of-skype-for-business-in-offic/

TURNING POINT is Mark Peterson's personal take on innovation and collaboration influencing today's corporate strategy. To have a conversion about what takes to implement collaborative solutions efficiently and at enterprise scale, contact Mark Peterson

Reference

No Jitter (2013). Vidyo-Google announcement of VP9 SVC for WebRTC: why it’s important. Retrieved from http://www.nojitter.com/post/240160699/vidyogoogle-announcement-of-vp9-svc-for-webrtc-why-its-important

Skype (2015). VPN Connection problems. Retrieved from http://community.skype.com/t5/Windows-archive/vpn-connection-problems/td-p/1371692

 

TURNING POINT is Mark Peterson's personal take on innovation and collaboration influencing today's corporate strategy. To have a conversion about what takes to implement collaborative solutions efficiently and at enterprise scale, contact Mark Peterson.

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Collaboration Spaces and Investing in the Environment

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Collaboration Spaces and Investing in the Environment

Collaboration Spaces and Important Environmental Considerations  

By definition, huddle spaces must be designed as the less-expensive alternative to traditional videoconferencing rooms, but they also need to deliver high quality video experience in order to be effective across cultures, particularly when multiple endpoints and more expensive videoconferencing rooms are on the other end of the call. Unless investments in the architectural environment are made, the quality of the video and audio from the low-cost collaboration spaces will substantially impact the experience of those participants experiences connecting in the more expensive spaces: inability to see and hear people at the other end of the call.  It is unlikely that companies will invest in the proper lighting and acoustics in these huddle rooms - unless someone can make the case that these features are important. Most facilities project teams will at least make sure that cameras and displays are positioned to avoid sun back light (no one is going to remember to shut the shades), and architects will typically use tables with lighter colors that bounce flattering light up into faces - provided they know that "collaboration" means rooms will be used for videoconferencing and not just local PC sharing. 

  • The more comfortable people feel about their own appearance, the more relaxed they will be over video, increasing opportunities to build trust.
  • Spaces must be properly lit to distinguish expressions. Focus and iris are highly intelligent and automatic in cameras. Effective in low light,  cameras cannot compensate for bad lighting. 
    • Use florescent fixtures that bounce the light so that is soft and not directly down, otherwise it will cause unflattering raccoon eyes.
    • If there is more light on the walls than faces, people will appear in high contrast, practically silhouettes.
    • Ask for warm background fabric colors instead of glass, whiteboards or drywall behind the participants to avoid high contrast.  
  • All collaboration rooms must receive some level of acoustic treatment on two adjoining walls, regardless of size and cost saving initiatives. In fact, the smaller the room, the more the reverberation is a problem and the more important sound absorption becomes.
  • If you are unable to convince the project team that huddle rooms require acoustic treatment, find a consultant to set them straight. It is worth the investment because the first few rooms will define the investment standard and thus impact a large deployment of rooms.   I have convinced stakeholders by recording and playing back a conversation held in a similarly designed room with four glass walls (if one is not available, the consultant can make a recording of a simulate space). Business managers are more interested in the room they are building and receiving good audio than they are about transmitting signals to other rooms. They experience what it's like to be on the receiving end of a poorly engineered collaboration space in order to become advocates for properly engineered huddle spaces.

Opposite Point of View

 Why spend money on better lighting and acoustics in collaboration spaces? These are suppose to be inexpensive spaces. If teams want to have a higher quality experience, they should book a real conference room.

Huddle rooms are not new, but adding video and using it across the globe is a new and important component of the Unified Communications and Collaboration strategy.  Architects and Construction teams consider the investment in huddle spaces and larger meeting rooms to be at the opposite end of the business investment spectrum. They are unaware of the impact that poor lighting poor acoustics have on collaborating with remote participants.  In these more intimate settings, teams need to trust and share with their partners who see the world from a different perspective. If we design these low-cost spaces to work across cultural variances, teams can come to agreements faster and be more productive.  This type of spontaneous collaboration cannot be recreated in a formal videoconferencing setting, and therefore booking a conference room is not effective alternative to the huddle room.

TURNING POINT is Mark Peterson's personal take on innovation and collaboration influencing today's corporate strategy. To have a conversion about what takes to implement collaborative solutions efficiently and at enterprise scale, contact Mark Peterson

 

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5 Steps to Launching a Successful 1:1 Video Session

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5 Steps to Launching a Successful 1:1 Video Session

To be culturally competent, we need to pay attention to the details of the remote collaboration technology and transmit as much of the non-verbal information as we are trying to perceive from our distant co-workers.  Here are 7 steps to achieving one-on-one (1:1) culture-bridging video sessions. 

 

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Eight Steps to Achieving Quality Video Experience in a Low-Cost Collaboration Space

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Eight Steps to Achieving Quality Video Experience in a Low-Cost Collaboration Space

Similarly, cultures are more likely to collide when teams are trying to collaborate informally in small huddle rooms rather than in bigger videoconferencing rooms. These smaller rooms provide a great opportunity to capitalize on information “lost in translation” during formal conference calls. Interpreting subtle cues in these situations provides the best opportunity to overcome decision-making obstacles. Here are 8 steps to achieving quality video experience in a low-cost collaboration space. 

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Selecting the Right Camera for Collaboration Spaces

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Selecting the Right Camera for Collaboration Spaces

Over the past two years, we have witnessed the coming of age for USB cameras for huddle rooms. Managing multimedia engineers situated across the globe, I live in these spaces, but it was not until the MBA coursework that I started to incorporate cultural considerations into determining what equipment works well when we collaborate at a distance. I am sharing what I have learned  about currently available cameras. Share your experiences so that we to help others design effective collaboration spaces. 

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New Technologies for Deciphering Cultural Disagreement

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New Technologies for Deciphering Cultural Disagreement

When international teams cannot gather around the same table, they must to rely on remote technologies to collaborate.  In these situations, agreement on corporate culture, the set of values that characterize a company and guides it practices, is not sufficient to resolve cultural divides.  Companies have to provide the right collaboration tools.  The technology that connects these cultures together must provide teams with insight into less obvious visual and verbal cues.

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VIDEO COLLABORATION: A BRIDGE OF TRUST ACROSS CULTURES

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VIDEO COLLABORATION: A BRIDGE OF TRUST ACROSS CULTURES

International companies are investing in small huddle rooms and open collaboration stations in conjunction with their global deployment collaboration software, such as Skype for Business. This is new territory and managers may be surprised when they realize that cultural conflicts are more likely to surface when teams are in situations where they have to closely collaborate. For these smaller video spaces to work effectively alongside the desktop and larger conference rooms, their implementation must include strategies that build trust across cultures.

 

"If you ask three ‘what for’ questions in row, you will always have an answer for the first question. The second question will be more challenging. By the third, you no longer know exactly why you are doing what you are doing." - Ricardo Semlier, CEO of Semco (TEDGlobal, 2014).

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VIDEO COLLABORATION:  SPACE SPEAKS AS LOUDLY AS WORDS

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VIDEO COLLABORATION: SPACE SPEAKS AS LOUDLY AS WORDS

Next week’s CES 2016 Government agenda is to establish an international framework for addressing global cyber threats. Fortunately, the advent of low-cost, high-resolution video collaboration technology will also be on display as CES. Just in time to make lasting agreements a reality.  Agencies from around the world can now collaborate across distance and cultural divides …provided they respect each other’s virtual space.

“…Cultural dynamics can either enable or derail performance. But recognizing those cultural factors is difficult for business leaders; like everyone else, they too can be blind to the culture of which they are a part”

- Hammerich and Lewis, 2013

 

 

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4K COLLABORATION AND CULTURAL COMPETENCY: SEEING THE AIR WE BREATHE

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4K COLLABORATION AND CULTURAL COMPETENCY: SEEING THE AIR WE BREATHE

A wave of inexpensive 4K camera and displays is about to pour into collaboration spaces. The price will be a higher demand for cultural competency. Wondering what that 4k content will be? It is the range of non-verbal communication like eye movement and expressions unique to every society.  Now that you can see these hidden messages, you are be expected to decipher their meaning, and quickly, so that your company can stay competitive by leveraging a global workforce. 

 “Human, rather than technological constraints do the most to hold back both corporate and societal gains from globalization. The barriers are, to a great extent, inside ourselves rather than only out there in the world”

— Ghemawat, 2013, p.35

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LEVERAGING CULTURE COMPETENCY AND COLLABORATION STRATEGIES PART 2

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LEVERAGING CULTURE COMPETENCY AND COLLABORATION STRATEGIES PART 2

Contest cultures tend to focus on defining expected results and letting the project team establish the process and fill in the details.  The problem with decisions based on targets is that it favors heuristics, and rule-of-thumb behavior can lead to false-positives. For example, once reaching the determined quota the process typically stops. In contrast, most High Power Distance cultures prefer establishing a clear sequence, and Well-Oiled Machines (even though low power) also value systematic approaches. These cultures are more likely to question how much time is worth the effort in the initiative and apply sophisticated algorithms to maximize efficiencies. Instead of stopping when a target number is reached it may be more advantageous to plan the timing.

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