Zoom launches a new AI feature to make videos even clearer
If you attend a hybrid meeting, you’ll often spot a big difference between those signing on from home and those joining from the office conference room. People connecting from home, in the spaces they’ve carefully laid out and lit since 2020, are clearly visible with their facial expressions easy to read down to the last chuckle; those connecting from a conference room, by contrast, can look grainy or blurry, and can easily be obscured by an inconveniently placed swivel chair or coffee cup.
All in all, it’s not a great motivator for people to go back to the office.
But a new feature from Zoom, called Intelligent Director, aims to re-establish what the company calls “meeting equity,” using a set of three cameras guided by artificial intelligence to focus in on the faces of people in a conference room, even as they turn their heads or move about the room. In essence, it’s an effort to bring to hybrid meetings the more intimate conversational dynamics people came to expect while working from home, where speakers’ facial expressions and body language are clearly visible, even in meetings with multiple people.
“Folks that are coming into the room want that personalized experience, want their own video feed,” says Zoom Spaces product specialist Nicole Raymer. “When folks started making their way back into these spaces, they felt a little outdated, because it was in fact that bowling alley view of the table.”
The Intelligent Director feature, which entered open beta on Tuesday, is included at no extra cost with existing Zoom Rooms subscriptions, which are designed to enable video conversations from conference rooms, classrooms, and similar spaces. It follows a feature called Smart Gallery, released in 2021, which provides separate video feeds automatically showing each participant in a room.
But while Smart Gallery can work with traditional videoconferencing hardware, Intelligent Director specifically uses the three-camera setup to reduce the chances participants will be obscured by other people or furniture as they move about, even in more crowded spaces or rooms with complex layouts, with the details automatically managed by AI.
“You don’t have to manually log in and control each camera,” Raymer says.
The current version of Intelligent Director can support up to 16 participants in a room. And if customers need help installing the camera hardware, they can get help from Zoom’s professional services unit or one of Zoom’s partner companies, Raymer says.
Intelligent Director is expected to exit beta testing later this year, and the company expects to continue developing features designed to unify the playing field between people joining meetings in person and those connecting from their own private spaces.