An Introduction to HoloMeeting
November 13, 2017
When meeting or collaborating with colleagues, most would say that their preferred option is face to face. However, this option does not often exist with dispersed workforces, remote collaboration and out of office working becoming more and more commonplace.
This means that working and collaborating in an intuitive, immersive and collaborative manner is becoming necessary across a wide range of industries.
There are, of course, existing remote meeting solutions in existence from the ‘traditional’ teleconferencing speaker system to online applications like Skype for Business of Cisco’s WebEx. These are perfectly fine solutions for video conferencing as they were designed to enhance the existing meeting/boardroom setup, not replace it. For true collaborative working however, video conferencing solutions are somewhat lacking. This is why we developed HoloMeeting, a holographic workplace solution which allows co-workers to remotely meet, collaborate and communicate via the Microsoft HoloLens.
What is HoloMeeting?
Put simply, it is a meeting/conferencing solution that uses Microsoft HoloLens holographic technology to allow for numerous individuals to meet from remote locations, interact with 3D models as well as 2D documents and collaborate by manipulating a shared space that contains whatever content you are using. The concept may, at first, appear abstract but it can be easily broken down into 3 key features.
Real time collaboration with context
The first feature to mention is the shared workspace itself.
As per the below image you can see that each individual in the meeting is able to see a large boxed area known as the shared workspace. This workspace acts in the same way as a table would in a more traditional meeting scenario.
In this manner, whatever is shared in the workplace becomes visible to everyone else in the meeting. This immediately increases the immersive and collaborative potential of holographic meetings. Everyone at the meeting can manipulate and interact with these workspace objects however once they are taken out, only the host can access them. This means there is always a degree of control and direction with any meeting and agendas can be adhered to without issue.
The shared workspace is not only used for 3D models but documents such as pdfs so presentations, for instance, can be prepared outside of the workspace and, once completed, placed inside the workspace for all participants to see and discuss.
Currently such immersive collaboration is limited in remote meeting scenarios. Video conferencing solutions do not allow, and were not designed for such a high level of interactivity. There is often a fear of miscommunication and lack of awareness in others which impacts upon efficiency and productivity.
HoloMeeting provides the opportunity for real time collaboration in ways that were not possible before. Global teams can now work together where they complete individual tasks, constantly check in with their peers and in the end combine their pieces of work to create a collaborative project. The aim is to see this technology change the way teams and companies organise their work processes.
Remote meetings are more involved
The second feature of HoloMeeting to note is the gaze input. When each individual dials in to a meeting, they are represented by a floating HoloLens avatar that moves as they do as depicted in the image below. So, if a person wishes to walk around the shared workspace, other participants are constantly aware of their relative position and where they are looking.
In 2D this would be impossible and is clearly limited when it comes to collaborative elements.
The laser gaze input allows for meeting participants to move around the shared workspace (which, of course is present in their own ‘real’ space be it a home or an office). This fluidity allows for a much more immersive and collaborative experience where participants can view models, prototypes, charts, visualisations, documents and more from a range of angles to enhance the working experience. The gaze function additionally allows each participant to see exactly where the others are looking to a) be able to clarify points easier and b) ascertain just how actively they are participating in the meeting.
This is a known issue with other remote meeting solutions thus revolutionising the efficiency and participation levels of remote communication.
Usually, in remote meeting calls, the host and other participants are unaware of what everyone is doing. Are they interacting with the presentation? What are they engaging with? Are they engaging at all? All parties are now totally aware of each other and able to alter the direction of the meeting by noticing behavioural prompts which are made visible by the spatial positioning and gaze input features of HoloMeeting.
Together they make the HoloMeeting experience as close to reality as possible, bringing people together virtually to interact in a shared workplace just as they would in person.
Feel more engaged with Spatial Sound
The final key feature of HoloMeeting is the spatial sound. As other members of the meeting move around the shared space, the direction from which they are heard will also change.
For example, if a colleague walks from the right to the left, the sound will also transition from your right ear to your left. Not only does this break another barrier of current remote conferencing, but it also means that if multiple people talk at once I can clearly hear all parties instead of dealing with an awkward blur of noise.
This is the core of the problem when it comes to remote meetings in the present day because when people talk over each other things need to be repeated. In this manner, HoloMeeting with its spatial sound makes for a more realistic conversation and therefore participants are able to act as such.
With the current remote meeting format the larger the meetings get, the exponentially slower they become. However this is something that can be avoided through the use of spatial sound. Not only are meetings more efficient, but now knowledge transfer occurs in more engaging and interactive ways, which drastically improves the quality of the outcome of the meeting as well.
Additionally, because each participant is using his or her own HoloLens device it means that each voice stream is separate. In the future we will be able to provide the function to record each stream, making meetings searchable and minute taking easy.
The core features of HoloMeeting combine to completely remove the current inefficiencies related to remote meetings as this application brings everyone virtually together.
Everyone speaks, moves and behaves as if they were there in person. In addition, everyone can interact with 3D models, pulling and breaking them apart and redesigning as they wish on top of usual 2D interaction such as PDF viewing and presentations.
We will continue to build more functionality into HoloMeeting and listen to client participant feedback as we embark on a Beta program. This will enable us to work together with partners and provide a real-world, working commercial solution for remote meeting, collaboration, communication and beyond. We will, of course, announce these features as they come. They will serve to build upon this existing solution and further enhance business communication processes in ways which have never before been seen.