Zoom announces new software-hardware integrations for its hybrid conference rooms

Today Zoom is announcing a new set of software-hardware integrations for its Zoom Rooms, including dashboard viewing of real-time people count data and a contactless virtual receptionist mode to help facilitate enterprises’ transition to hybrid work. The Zoom Rooms feature operates via a subscription service, adding administrative and A/V system management meeting capabilities to in-person conference rooms.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Zoom Rooms product head Jeff Smith discussed how the new feature’s technologies track crowding, monitor ventilation, and ease of communication. The platform can now interpret the number of live people in a room, for example, which is particularly useful during the pandemic.

“We leveraged the camera and we do computer vision segmentation of the image to identify how many people are in the room,” he said. Smith explained that the technology looks for people’s shapes to count how many people are in a room. He said this data can flow to IT teams and to scheduling displays outside meeting rooms. Zoom is also now able to display aggregated air quality data collected from embedded sensors in appliances called Neat Bar Pros for meeting participants. It also offers a virtual receptionist mode that greets visitors sans human contact.

“We have a lot of innovation that focuses on computer vision … understanding on a pixel-to-pixel level what a person is and what is their background from a platform perspective,” Smith said. He referenced Zoom’s virtual backgrounds, new blurred backgrounds, and its trend toward more immersive scenes.

In addition to Zoom’s computer vision emphasis, the company has focused on scaling its architecture to accommodate massive live quantities of data. Last March, Zoom reported a monthly average of 200 million daily meeting participants, exponentially surpassing its existing 10 million-person record. Smith explained that scalability “is very much about using edge computing [and] making sure that a lot of the heavy lifting that happens in a Zoom meeting happens at the edge.” He added that Zoom Rooms is no different: “We do a majority of the image processing, and the audio processing, at the edge and in the Zoom client.”

“Distributed architecture with edge computing, and a very fast switching infrastructure, is kind of the secret,” he said. Within this architecture, Smith added that the company is looking to build Zoom as a platform, introducing internal and external connection points between its apps, workflow integrations, and user experience.

Zoom Rooms is now incorporating some of these connection points. Other new capabilities allow users to pair mobile devices for managing a meeting’s in-person options without physical contact. It can also let users control shared desktops from their own devices and save whiteboard collaborations to chat or email. “We’re trying to create that information flow from before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting,” Smith said.


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