Flying off to Bangkok was nowhere in my post-pandemic plans, but that was exactly what I was doing one weekday morning, courtesy of Jabra.
Jabra is no stranger of a name to audiophiles, and more recently, to techies in the hybrid working scene too.
The Danish brand has long specialised in audio equipment (with me and my colleagues being loyal fans of its earbuds), and in the past years, it branched out into creating video conferencing systems.
The reason for the trip, InfoComm Southeast Asia 2022 (InfoComm), was a place where all of the latest audiovisual (A/V) technologies were displayed by different brands.
Among the various concepts tackled, one that we found extremely relevant was hybrid working.
It’s what many of us experience today in post-pandemic times. Briefly, it refers to flexible working models that can blend WFH, remote work, on-the-go work, and in-office work.
As the concept became more widely recognised, so too did the issues surrounding it, which usually pertain to communication.
With that in mind, here’s what tech solutions already exist to tackle them.
In the WFH and remote work scenario
The results of remote work, and by extension WFH, have not been studied enough to come to conclusive results.
However, studies have shown that some of the population feel a disconnect when remote working for an extended period of time.
Even with frequent virtual meetings, Jabra believes that if one doesn’t have the proper, efficient tools, that disconnect can become exacerbated.
To that end, they designed the PanaCast 20, a personal webcam which features 4K video and AI capabilities. These are meant to give your colleagues a clearer picture of you, with the AI keeping you in the centre of the frame to capture every expression, and lighting optimisation to ensure you’re always seen.
It also has Picture-in-Picture mode, which allows you to share something in close-up while still presenting in a smaller window, though it only works when using Jabra with a UC platform.
Dictionary Time: Unified Communication is a system that allows collaboration with multiple functions including chat, video, voice, and conferencing. UC platforms include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.Sangoma
As someone who doesn’t particularly have any high-stakes virtual meetings, these are all nice-to-haves rather than need-to-haves.
But for someone who’s often speaking to clients, investors, and other stakeholders, I understand the need to appear professional, even over a webcam, and that’s precisely what Jabra’s tech is meant to help with.
In the meeting room
Crowding in a meeting room to get in on a virtual meeting with another party has been around since even before the pandemic. What the pandemic introduced was the need to social distance.
This posed a bigger challenge then, because if we were already crowding around to be seen pre-pandemic, how would our virtual meetings fare when we’re more spread out?
During our own large group meetings, we would pass the main laptop used for the call around, which is admittedly inefficient though it gets the job done.
A more efficient solution would actually be to use the PanaCast, which we have a unit of in the office. We just tend to forget since it’s kept in our call booth for one, as individual virtual meetings tend to happen more regularly than group ones for us.
The times that we have used it though, its 180° field of view has come in handy the most. This allows everyone (whether spread across a table parallel to the camera or around a U-shaped table) to fit into the virtual meeting screen without squeezing together.
Jabra describes this as a wall-to-wall view, and it’s meant to help companies overcome the space limitations of their meeting rooms.
This is something that is still quite unique to Jabra, as other options on the market seem to be limited to a 120° field of view, such as Yealink’s and Logitech’s webcams.
Using the three cameras on the PanaCast, Jabra is able to create a 180° field of view by doing real-time stitching of overlapping areas of the video. We did an entire video exploring its capabilities here.
The PanaCast has an Intelligent Zoom as well, which means it will automatically frame who’s speaking and clusters of people (if some are standing and some are seated), ensuring that everyone remains visible.
Combining all these is also the PanaCast 50, a reimagined video bar, but it takes the virtual meeting experience up a notch with Jabra’s new whiteboard streaming technology.
The way this technology works is definitely a “you have to see it to believe it” moment, as it was only in person at InfoComm that we were able to understand how it worked and how fast it worked.
At InfoComm, the setup was a traditional whiteboard positioned on a wall perpendicular to the PanaCast 50.
A Jabra representative then used a bold marker to write something on the board, and once the PanaCast 50 detected it, it “lifted” the words onto a translucent virtual whiteboard, in exactly the colour, size, and style they were written.
With this technology, ideas can be effortlessly and directly shared with and recorded for everyone in the virtual meeting.
There’s no need for more bloated software add-ons, or even specially-made whiteboards that detect pen pressure.
Something that would make this feature even better would be if Jabra developed software to easily capture and maintain records of these virtual whiteboards.
Since Jabra got its start with audio devices and grew to develop professional and enterprise-grade audio equipment, one can expect the PanaCasts to detect and deliver great audio too.
From our time at InfoComm, we learnt that a lot of solutions still needed a bunch of different tech to achieve ideal performance, but Jabra has engineered its devices such that you need just one thing for most hybrid working scenarios.
Understandably, that brings up the pricing of each of its enterprise-grade devices, something which could pose a challenge for SMEs hoping to join the hybrid working trend.
But Jabra believes that this move is an investment worth making, particularly for companies that want to stay ahead of the curve.
With hybrid working still in its infancy, we’ll definitely be seeing more tech companies following suit to develop solutions to future issues and inefficiencies, with Jabra likely taking the lead.