Exclusive: Microsoft Aims for the Holy Grail – Videoconferencing That Actually Works

Microsoft let me sit in on the rehearsal for its futuristic “meetings of the future” demo in Orlando. Here’s what I learned.

Story by Mark Sullivan, Fast Company

Two things are said on nearly every video conference meeting: “Can you see my screen?” and “Can you move closer to the microphone?”

Tele-meetings–especially ones with more than five people–are clunky at best and headache-inducing at worst. In a typical scenario, 10 people are gathered in a room in the home office and seven or eight souls traveling or working at home have to call in, or Skype in from their laptops. Some of them keep the mic on mute and shut off the camera, making them a purely passive participant. Since the remote people often can’t see the faces of the other participants, they have no idea when it might be their turn to speak. When they break in to the discussion, it sounds like this: “Hi hey hi hey hello? Hello? It’s Ed in Phoenix, can you hear me?” And they can’t see the body language of the people on the other end, so they have no idea if their comments are eliciting nods, shrugs, or blank stares.

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