Zoom’s Magnus Falk: The world of video confs in ‘the era of flexibility’
While the video conferencing app may have built its brand on remote interactions, Zoom’s CIO advisor Magnus Falk made an in-person appearance at Tech Show London last month to present the firm’s short, medium and long-term product roadmap.
Future plans for Zoom embrace the hybrid workplace and aim to make meetings more seamless, collaborative and leverage new technologies such as drone streaming, immersive tech such as video walls and, of course, the metaverse.
Reflecting on the past two years, Falk recognised the force the pandemic had over its recent success and how this has impacted Zoom’s future plans.
He noted that as the pandemic forced people to work from home during country-wide lockdowns, many office-based workplaces carried on working over Zoom.
“Those organisations who moved to the cloud were already ahead in the remote working world,” he added, but “most had to adjust their security in some way.”
Positively, many firms reported increasing productivity during their remote working period, but as time went on the fatigue started to show.
Coined ‘Zoom fatigue’ from extended time spent over video calls, work boundaries had to be drawn and serendipitous interactions needed to be created, he admitted.
However, overall, employees are embracing remote and hybrid working. He said now that workers have had a taste of remote working and new workers know of nothing else, “the genie was out of the bottle.”
He added: “The ability to work from anywhere has been there for a while. Is this now the way of the future? This is what leaders asked as they started to plan to return to the office.”
“The genie never got put back into the bottle, people like the flexibility and staff started to leave for companies that better supported their lifestyle,” he observed.
Falk said that it has become clear that the workforce has entered a “new era of flexibility” and companies need to do three things: deploy tech to give their staff flexible choices, deploy incentives to meet up physically and also adapt their businesses to meet customers who are also living in the era of flexibility.
He covered the short, medium, and long-term plans Zoom has to cater to the remote and hybrid working world.
“As we are moving towards an era of flexibility, it’s going to be iterative,” predicts Falk. He adds that employees will ask the following questions during the interview: How do you use your office? What’s it for now?
“Staff pay significant money to come to the office, so what’s in it for them? If the aim is collaboration then how is the office configured to allow for that?” he asks.
Falk says every meeting or collaboration employees have should have a Zoom invite attached to consider hybrid working, otherwise, he adds, “scheduling is too hard”. The CIO stressed that it was better to prepare for every interaction.
The exec also revealed that so-called Zoom fatigue could be remedied – conversely – by more tech. Zoom is soon to launch an AI feature that will detect who is in the room via a webcam and divide the video to focus on the separate faces for a more natural experience.
Planning for hybrid also means deploying touch screen tech. Physical whiteboards won’t cut it in a hybrid meeting, says Falk, but Zoom is planning on a virtual whiteboard for better collaboration.
In terms of enterprise verticals innovating with Zoom Falk says that video banking is taking off alongside property being sold via video as well as video commerce.
A little further into the future, Falk predicts more use of augmented reality – not only in the office but also on construction sites and factories: “imagine Google Glass powered by Zoom,” he says.
“imagine Google Glass powered by Zoom.”
For meetings in the field and on-site for construction, he says drone video streaming for meetings in the field experiments are underway.
Zoom also has a developer platform that enables enterprises to create and integrate apps into the platform.
There is no roadmap in the tech industry without mention of the metaverse. For Zoom, this means bringing people’s faces out of a 2D screen and into the VR world of the metaverse. Falk said that this would likely stay as an edge case for a while but that it was currently exploring this through its partnership with Oculus which will see meetings and whiteboards integrated into the VR firm’s recently announced Horizon Workrooms.
Immersive tech will also be making its way into office environments powered by video walls in offices and houses, especially as the cost of mirror tech falls as uptake increases.
Overall, Falk concludes that the main theme is retaining flexibility in the workplace and “retaining the bits that work for people but ensuring that outcomes for business that are delivered.”
Internally, as a business, the firm hopes to do the same – integrating with more apps and features – whether with Oculus for virtual whiteboards or Otter AI for transcription – as it continues to make its transition from becoming a killer collaborative app to a killer collaboration platform.
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