Cognitive collaboration taking over physical and virtual meetings 

by March 20, 2020 0 comments

Soma Tah




With geographical boundaries no longer a barrier for work, virtual meetings and remote collaboration are becoming the new norms. Hence, people want immersive and cognitive tools and technologies that allow them to get richer collaborative experiences even in the virtual workspaces, says Pankaj Agrawal, Director Sales – Collaboration Business, Cisco India & SAARC.



Collaboration evolving for the modern workplace   

People don’t need a large video conferencing room for collaboration today as they heavily depend on their mobile phones for day-to-day collaboration needs.  

Small rooms or open spaces with a video unit or the whiteboard are more popular with millennials, instead of large dedicated video conferencing rooms. Organizations are creating huddle spaces to provide an experience that millennials will like. 

The Cisco Webex Room Kit offers an integrated unit can be paired with any display to bring more intelligence and usability to the small to medium team collaboration needs. There are compact and simpler units like ‘Webex Board,’ which can be placed anywhere without too many wires running and they can be a great aid for video-conferencing, for content sharing on the whiteboard and relaying that information with people in real-time.    

If you look at the high-end units also, which we call ‘Panorama’ also have evolved from room remediation to something which can be used as plug-and-play.    

Cognitive collaboration is the way forward   

Using artificial intelligence(AI) to drive much stronger engagement in meetings is the next wave for collaboration. Essentially, it is about using cognitive tools and technologies to make remote collaboration as good as or even better than face-to-face collaboration. It involves using intelligent virtual assistants, facial recognition, natural language processing and conversational interfaces, noise detection and suppression, for providing capabilities like people insights, contextual real-time assistance in meetings, and dynamic document sharing, and analytics-based routing, etc.    

For example, when ten people join from a large conference room, AI tools can be used to locate and zoom in on the person speaking, allowing the user to experience the feeling of close engagement that one experiences in a physical meeting. We use ‘AI-based noise detection and suppression’ mechanism that can detect background noises and alert specific participants with the suggestion to ‘mute’. Audio from any active speaker with background noise also gets muffled for other meeting participants.   

Another challenge people often face during the follow-up meetings are: ‘What did I discuss last time?’ and ‘What will I follow up in this meeting?’ To help resolve this challenge, we have an AI-based assistant, ‘EVA’ (Enterprise Voice Assistant) who becomes part of the meeting, takes notes during the meeting and also does transcriptions.  

Removing language barriers in collaboration   

We realize that when people across the globe work together, some of them might be comfortable speaking in their local languages. Although this can become a communication barrier for an actual face-to-face meeting, we, in this particular case can make remote collaboration even better than a real face-to-face meeting by providing a real-time translation feature. This feature is now available in a few languages, and we are working towards extending it to other languages.   

Raising risk awareness on non-secure collaboration  

A lot of organizations use non-secure collaboration technologies, without realizing how they are exposing themselves to different types of risks. They might not understand the need to switch to secure collaboration tools and platforms until they face an adverse incident. For instance, someone might attempt to hack crucial and sensitive data from the meeting. Therefore, besides securing the collaboration platform, it is also vital to safeguard the content and tools that run on the platform. Webex uses end-to-end encryption to prevent any unauthorized access to the meeting and collaboration data. 

(The story first appeared in PCQuest magazine, March, 2020 edition)  

Also read: Weaving a collaborative culture into the organizational fabric

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