polycom-soundstation-ip-6000As a Workplace Professionals, we have witnessed the rise in mobile working and with it the increase in the use of teleconferencing. I was fortunate in a previous job to have access to state of the art telepresence facility right at the birth of the technology and so I was spoilt. For those that are not familiar with the technology, a telepresence meeting is conducted in a specially constructed video conferencing facility where your counterparts are represented life-size on screens around a specially constructed oval table that makes it appear as if your electronic colleagues are sitting opposite you in the room. This set up significantly improves the experience of virtual meetings. However, these facilities are prohibitively expensive to construct, are underutilised and have a rapacious appetite for bandwidth.

Every day millions of attendees of virtual meetings are not so lucky, they have to contend with inadequate audio-only technology,  poor bandwidth in unsuitable and noisy locations.  If you are fortunate enough to have dedicated teleconferencing facilities like Polycom then at least the technology is likely to be adequate. However but there are still significant challenges because human hearing evolved using incredibly sophisticated neural processing that allows us to hear the type and location of the sound. This helps us interpret what we hear.

In January 2014 web video comedians Tripp and Tyler released a video called A Conference Call in real Life and has received over 14 million views to date. In four minutes, the pair exposed just how ridiculous and frustrating audio-only conference calls often are: the inability to figure out who’s speaking; the problem of two people speaking at the same time; the participant who delivers a long monologue or a keen insight, only to realize his phone is on mute; the at-home worker whose dog is barking in the background.