Microsoft Roundtable: a cool way to collaborate by video

Finally after months of hearing about them we have Microsoft Roundtable devices deployed at our Microsoft campus near Reading. I'm sure Viral will go into much more detail over the coming months as he's the lead evangelist for Roundtable in the UK. You can think of the Roundtable device as a replacement for your conference phone in a meeting room. It performs the normal speaker phone functions AND has five webcams in the top which give it the ability to give a panoramic view of the entire room.

The following image was taken from my machine yesterday as James, Viral and I set up a live meeting session between ourselves in a meeting room and Eileen who was working from home.

For me the coolest thing about Roundtable is that it focusses the video image on whomever is speaking regardless of where they are sat in the room (thanks to the built-in five webcams) or remotely.You can see from the image that Viral was the last person to speak as his image is in the top window. If you look below you can see the panoramic view of each of us in the room. When Eileen spoke (from home) the image from her laptop's webcam came into focus. In addition you can see the slides (very old ones) James was sharing with each of us.

Being able to see the expression of whomever is speaking AND see the entire conference room makes for much more involving meetings.

This kind of technology can help reduce the need for so much business travel - particularly for short meetings. Clearly there will always be benefits in meeting in person but using a combination of some "in person" and some "remote" could both help us to be more environmentally responsible AND save us time and hassle commuting.

Beware though - you can't get away with burying your head in your laptop any more!

Comments (4)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s (12th June 2008) DesignIT 2008 Roundtable discussion. Neville Hobson’s

  2. Anonymous says:

    As I mentioned in my earlier post DesignIT: a mashup of charity, art and technology we held a debate

  3. Anonymous says:

    John> If you want to include images of those outside the room (joining via their own webcam) then as you suggest a good way is to project the output from LiveMeeting/Roundtable.

    And YES people in the room would be looking to and fro.

    The ideal way is to have a fancy room setup whereby people are only sat on one side of the table and have a wall of screens along the opposite side so that you are looking eye to eye with those outside the room.

    Whatever you do – however simple – roundtable makes it much easier and effective to see the body language of everyone in the meeting.

  4. John C. Kirk says:

    I think it looks good for the remote person (or people) who can see everyone sitting around the RoundTable device. But how do the people on site see the people who aren’t there? If they all need to crowd around the same laptop, it defeats the purpose of a 360 degree panorama! Alternately, if you have the remote image on a projector screen, surely the RoundTable cameras will be pointing at people’s chins (as they look upwards)?

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