1912.jpgYou probably know roughly how old the portable computer is, but how old is the conference room?  Meeting rooms have been around probably since the invention of the type writer in 1860s. In the picture, you can see the members of the Board of Corona Typewriter Co. discussing strategy in the company’s conference room in 1912.


Technology in the Conference Room


SoundStation 1.jpgBy the end of the 1980s, word processors and personal computers had largely displaced typewriters, but the conference room had not changed much. The black board turned white and the iconic Polycom "spider" conference phone (the SoundStation) made its first appearance by crawling over the conference table. That was a revolution at the time because teams were able to communicate and collaborate with people located outside of the office.


Then, in the 1990s, the phone lines became digital allowing video conferences to take place in the meeting room using innovative pan-tilt-zoom cameras and monitors. At the beginning of the new millennium, the whiteboard got “smart” and interactive, monitors became flat, and both the spider phone and the video conferencing system in the meeting room got upgraded to support IP and High Definition audio and video. And again, the conference room still had not changed much back then…



A PictureTel videoconferencing solution in a conference room in 1998


The need for a Change


Today, the pace of business is much faster. Time to market and product lifecycles are shorter than ever. The world is an increasingly complex and competitive place where productivity and innovation are vital. As a result we have become mobile, social, visual and analytical more than ever before. We are connected at home, at the office and on the go. We have turned into working nomads always on the move or teleworkers working from home offices. We are now part of virtual teams separated by distance whether geographic, cultural, linguistic or demographic even though many of us still have to commute daily to get to an office and waste precious hours in traffic.


Succeeding in this highly competitive world requires that people – everywhere – must work more collaboratively. And yet, most meeting room spaces today support leader-led presentations where information is controlled and shared by one person at a time. Such workspaces do not provide the technology allowing multiple types of digital information (images, videos, music, presentations, documents, etc...) to be shared and edited at the same time, and make it very hard for remote participants to easily contribute to the discussion.


What will the future be like?


StarTrek.JPGIn Star Trek, the NX-class Enterprise had a conference room.  A conference room was a location where meetings and similar gatherings were held. In 2366, Captain Jean-Luc Picard ordered the senior staff to the conference room to discuss a series of computer malfunctions (i.e. Star Trek, The Next Generation, Episode "Evolution" first aired on 25 September 1989). It looked very similar to the one used by the members of the Board of Corona Typewriter Co. in 1912.


With this in mind, shouldn’t we ask architects, designers, systems and AV integrators to bury the traditional meeting room as we know it today? Why not create together workspaces that are more intuitive, inclusive and more importantly, collaborative? As we approach 2020, shouldn’t we take into account much more the new ways of working and the needs of the business?


Collaborative Environments


Through the integration of innovative furniture design, video conferencing and content collaboration technologies, Polycom together with Steelcase and WOW Vision, have architected the next generation of collaborative workspaces which augment teamwork and productivity at a distance.


Collaborative Environments are the next generation of meeting and work spaces that reshape the way people collaborate in a connected world by allowing all participants to access, edit, share digital information equally, quickly and seamlessly regardless of distance. Collaborative Environments take into account the needs of multiple industries and comprise three main building blocks which integrate cutting-edge furniture and innovative technology:



1.  Workspace Solutions: Steelcase media:scape is a family of products that brings together people, space, and information to boost collaboration and help teams excel. Participants can access and share their digital information equally, quickly, and seamlessly. Steelcase media tables come in various shapes and heights specifically developed to enhance collaboration. When integrated with Polycom’s high-quality audio and video collaboration solutions, media:scape connects virtual teams spread across the globe. Watch how media:scape enhances collaboration here.


2.  Video Collaboration: With Polycom RealPresence video solutions, you can extend the productivity and efficiency benefits of in-person meetings beyond fixed workspaces. The Polycom RealPresence Group Series brings a new wave of efficiency and productivity to room-based group collaboration by combining great video experiences with a new breakthrough simple interface. Supporting over 75,000 users on a single network, the Polycom RealPresence Platform allows participants to seamlessly connect to other remote participants regardless of device type, protocol, network type, or bandwidth. Click here to watch how it works.


3.  Content Collaboration: Integrated with Polycom RealPresence Group 500 and 700 HD video conferencing systems, WOW Vision Collab8 enables your teams to wirelessly present up to 6 different sources of content and collaborate from any device – PC, Mac, tablet, smartphone and more – to a display. Teams can create and edit a common document through their individual devices. Furthermore, documents can be shared and saved by all team participants. Learn more about WOW Vision Collab8 here.


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Collaborative Environment based on Steelcase Media:scape, Polycom RealPresence Group 500 and WOW Vision Collab8


Collaborative Environments enable virtual teams spread across multiple locations to efficiently meet face-to-face and share up to six streams of content wirelessly. While connected using high-quality video and audio, participants can use any device (laptops, tablets and smartphone) running any operating system (Windows, iOS, Android) to collaboratively present, discuss and annotate on any critical piece of information shared on the screen during the meeting. If there is a need to share non-digital content such as a contract, a piece of fabric or sample, a visualizer or document camera can be connected at the back of the WOW Vision Collab8 using the HDMI input. The example shown in the picture here is a medium-sized Collaborative Environment with two screens and a Steelcase Media:scape standing-height table integrated with both a Polycom RealPresence Group 500 HD Video Conferencing system with an intelligent EagleEye Director tracking camera, and the Collab8 solution by WOW Vision.


Collaborative Environments can be further enriched when adding Polycom RealPresence Media Manager which is software that lets you capture, manage, deliver and access video content - from any source to any device. Virtual meetings and collaboration sessions taking place in the room or across multiple locations can be streamed live, recorded, stored, indexed, distributed and shared as easily as any other content type.


The end is approaching, fast…


Employees want workspaces that evolve with time and meet their appetite for visual communication and rich content collaboration. Thanks to the Collaborative Environments offered by Polycom, Steelcase and WOW Vision, virtual teams are now fully empowered to defy distance when designing new products, managing complex cases, responding to a crisis, delivering health care, teaching or mentoring students. This is why the conference room as we know it is on its way out, slowly but surely. It is time to say goodbye and embrace Collaborative Environments in every industry. Let’s now put this blog in a time capsule and open it in 2366 to see who was right!


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Collaborative Environments in action in Polycom’s offices in Singapore and Melbourne, Australia


The on-demand webcast about Polycom's new breakthrough solutions is available for replay. Watch it now
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