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Why remote meetings are still so painful

Source | : By Sarah Kessler

Humans have condensed the world’s information into a device that fits inside a pocket, created cars that drive themselves, and are planning to colonize Mars. But we are still regularly challenged by remote meetings that start like this:

Hi everyone. It’s great to have you all together on the line to discuss this very import–can you hear me?

Wave if you can hear me.

Ok, I’m not sure what’s going on. Let’s just use the phone for audio. What’s the conference line number?

Hello. I can hear you now. Good. As you can see from this slide–

You can’t see the slide?

Bill, can you just give us a rundown of what the slide says instead?

I think we lost Bill.

Technology is advancing at such breakneck speed that the World Economic Forum recently dubbed this era the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” So why can’t we fix the humble video conference call?

A growth-industry problem: Evolution is messy

Anyone with a smartphone today has easy and affordable access to simultaneous voice, audio, and text exchange.

In the beginning of remote-meeting software, however, those capabilities were separate businesses. Video calls involved installing expensive equipment in conference rooms. Cisco’s video conferencing technology for homes, introduced in 2010, cost $599, plus $24.99 per month for service. Other companies built products specifically for online conference calls, or for sharing presentations online.

As wifi, mobile video technology, and cloud computing became pervasive, these once-separate aspects of the remote meeting became feasible to combine—just in time, too, for a workforce rapidly getting more interested in remote-work options. “All of the sudden, instead of separate point tools, what you had was a need for people working remote and the feature sets converged,” says Shan Sinha, the founder of an online meeting company called Highfive, who has also worked on enterprise software at Google and Microsoft. “Everything needed to do video. Everything needed to support screen sharing and support phone calls.”

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