Living on Video in Las Vegas: Steelcase at CES

15 Jan 2013

Last weekend in Las Vegas, Steelcase changed the way workplaces view video conferencing. Their concept was just one of many on display throughout the week at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show.

This giant of the global furniture market company is showing their solution to physical appearance and acoustic issues with video conferencing with its new Living on Video conference setting.

Large companies have experienced a 70 percent increase in video traffic, so says a recent Cisco research finding. Moreover, as much as 62 percent of employees regularly work alongside people in different time zones.

According to Scott Sadler, Steelcase's product manager at the Grand Rapids office, "when you think about it, more and more companies are more global than ever before, their teams are more distributed than ever before and they're working to pull together talent from project teams that might not be in the same space. So when you think about the workplace and optimizing for project teams that are working together that might be distributed all over the world, we know the best way for them to communicate is on video."

In the current arena of video conferencing, being in front of the camera is uncomfortable for many people. The contributing factors may include the harsh lighting, an unflattering angle of the camera, or outside noise that interferes with a video conference.

A recent study by Steelcase found that nearly three-quarters, 72 percent, of respondents take note of their appearance on the screen and 58 percent worry that the lighting conditions or camera quality will make them appear washed out or tired. Another 36 percent reported that their workplace does not provide sufficient privacy in order to engage in one-on-one video conferencing.

"We believe that if we can break down those barriers and make people feel more comfortable," Sadler says, "then they're not going to be thinking about those other things, and they'll be fully engaged in the work at hand and they'll be more productive."

In Steelcase's newest creation, their Living on Video pod uses a two-person couch with directional microphones and speakers strategically placed on the outside perimeter of the couch to minimize outside noise and enhance the quality of conversation within the pod.

While sitting inside the pod at CES, Sadler explains "we're using deflective materials on the outside so it's deflecting the sound and we're using reflective materials on the inside so we're absorbing the sound."

Sadler says that the new video conferencing concept received excellent reviews from the CES participants who have tested it out.

In his words, "our customers who come in here get it." On a similar trend, the number one question he received was, "How soon can we get it?"

Although the answer to that question is still unknown, Steelcase is already working on several other versions of the same concept. This includes a video conferencing set-up that will have enough space for up to 12 people and a one-person walk-up space option.

Beyond its Living on Video showcase, the company also displayed their Media:Scape Mini, and the Eno interactive whiteboard and Fuse digital visualizer for the classroom setting.

Sadler states that Steelcase is "really working to build that 21st century classroom that gives students the things they need for today's world, such as critical thinking skills and working in groups and teams." He also believes that "the traditional classroom with an instructor in front and rows all the way to the back doesn't necessarily give the students the skill set that they need in order to be successful in today's environment. And we believe the active learning environment does that." (RP) Link


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