Visual Collaboration is the new buzz word!

A blog by Stefan Mayer, CEO Corporate AV Integration (PTY) Ltd

Past are the days of Unified communication or Video conferencing; Today we have combined unified collaboration with video conferencing. Welcome to Visual Collaboration!

As more people work in teams or learn in groups, their content and ways of working needs to be shared. Seeing something visually often helps one to understand the subject matter more easily.

Visual collaboration takes this a step further by bringing the future to us now, think Minority Report; being able to control content using gestures. This is not far off…

But, for now I would like to mention two products, which are readily available NOW and are transforming the way people work remotely and in teams.

These products are Oblong’s Mezzanine and Mersive’s Solstice. Both products are available in South Africa as we speak. Mezzanine has been around for nearly 8 years and has enjoyed a great uptake amongst some large international organisations. They have significantly reduced the pricing of their products this year making them more affordable for smaller organisations. The Mersive brand has been around since the early 2000s.

What is interesting to note is that both Mersive and Oblong are mainly software companies who have a hardware box, which is a means to an end. The software is their core focus. This is upgradable, easily deployable without the need for a new box. A firmware upgrade will solve most problems instantly.

The Oblong product Mezzanine was the product on which Minority Report was based from a technology perspective. One, two or three screens are used as a canvas to show any content, either from a Video conferencing content sharing input, from a laptop or a wirelessly connected laptop or live video streams. It can handle multiple inputs simultaneously. In addition to the main front screens, side screens, so called Cork boards can be connected too. These can be touch enabled. Full whiteboard connectivity is also possible. The cool thing is how the content gets to move around. You use a wand to select any feed and place it anywhere on the canvas.

The deployment is quite simple and can be retro fitted to any VC system you currently might have. For example, let’s assume you have a dual screen VC system already installed. All that is required is for the Mezzanine hardware box to be connected in between allowing switching of the HDMI and wireless inputs to the outputs, in this case the two existing screens. A few small IR sensors need to be installed on the sides of the screen and that’s it.

Video of Mezzanine in action: https://www.oblong.com/mezzanine

The Solstice takes a slightly different approach; the hardware box, also known as a pod, needs to be installed behind every screen. The box itself needs to connect to the network. Let’s say you have a lecture environment with different groups working together with a lecturer at the front of the room. Each group, or room can work on their own and can then share their screen with the lecturer/team leader to compare outcomes. One team can share its content to all other teams, or, all teams can share simultaneously with the lecturer or team leader. To take things further, the Solstice Pod has a USB port on it to connect to a in room Video enabled sound bar now allowing full VC with content sharing via its HDMI input to a remote participant. Truly remarkable product. I see this in training facilities, workshop environments and especially in the higher learning/educational space. The Pod also has an additional HDMI output for connection to a second screen in order to increase the display surface area.

Video of Solstice in action: https://youtu.be/ZvufABMhqSo

Both of these products will become more popular as people and teams start to see the benefit of visual collaboration. I think the time has come for Universities/ Education facilities as well as Corporates to realise and appreciate the benefits of visual collaboration in the study and work place.

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