Innovation Opportunities: Limits of Current Web-conferencing systems

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I wish I was left with the same time I had when I use to write my research papers in academia, that is unfortunately not the case. Thus I will be brief and short to the point.

Innovation comes in many flavors and can impact several areas of business. Today I talk about opportunities for tranformational innovation.


Web conferencing (WCs) systems are utilized today across North America and the world; they allow a fair amount of business and work collaboration among individuals residing at different locations. While we see a multitude of these WCs across internet sites and mobile apps, most people would agree that :

” When possible you’d rather talk to a person in presence” ! I agree too.

Why is that?

In my view there are three fundamental elements, ascribed to Human communication, that none of the current available WCs reproduce properly:

a) Context awareness

If you and I are talking in the same room and I see you have a sandwich on the table, I know by default that you maybe willing to take a bit. I can, as matter of courtesy, take on more of the conversation to allow you more time to take a bite. If I am in your office and I see the office in perfect order I form an impression about what type of behavior is more adapt to make you feel at easy. The examples could continue. However, the essence here is that context awareness is a portion of any human communication protocol that goes missed in current WCs.

b) Escalate verbal communication to visual communication

(You are thinking of the annotation package, don’t you? They are no good!)

How many times it occurs in a conversation, especially the ones that are more technical in essence, that you need to draw a scheme on a piece of papers or a blackboard? How long does it take to you to do so when you are in the same room with your counterpart?
Now consider the limitations that you have in using a  WCs for this specific purpose: Time to set up the blackboard, availability of design tools , rendering your wrist gestures on the screen ….. and more…
Even worse, if the visual communication entails solid 3D objects there is no way in WCs to render the same experience of real life communication.

c) Instigation of co-creative processes

When people are one in front of one another the combine result of the actions described above and the exchange of ideas can lead to entirely new directions in the course of the conversation. Someone could come up with an idea that abruptly change the direction, someone else could jump out of the chair and go meeting the next door colleague to confirm the new prevailing hypothesis. That person could come up with a proposition to test the new idea on the spot…

These co-creation processes tend to be inhibited when people meet in WCs. For some reasons, individuals tend to follow a protocol and stick to schedule more when they are on a WCs system. As a result they do not lean towards the instigation of co-creative processes.

How could these short comings be overcome?

I may spend more time on this in a second post. However in  my view  the key pieces of the solution are two technologies:

a) Augmented reality

b) Affective computing (@Affective Computing Group) :  particularly emotion/attention driven feedback technologies.

The three hidden problems require substantially innovative technologies and an integration with current backbone technologies.

More to come…….
Thank you.

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