Cisco supports hybrid workforce augmented reality meeting solutions

IT giant evolves collaboration suite to combine Webex meeting functionality with real-time, photorealistic holographic experience

Cisco has raised the bar on its collaboration products, making them directly focused on a next-generation hybrid workforce.

At the head of the suite is Webex Hologram, described as the industry’s only real-time meeting solution that takes advantage of augmented reality (AR) headsets to combine Webex meeting functionality with immersive 3D holograms. Holography may have been seen traditionally as a technology waiting for an application, but Cisco noted that hybrid working poses a challenge for teams that requires hands-on collaboration, such as design or training with a physical object.

With Webex Hologram’s holographic capabilities, participants can now interact in ways previously only possible in-person. Cisco claimed that only Webex Hologram enables a feeling of co-presence by delivering photorealistic, real-time holograms of actual people, unlike other 2D and virtual meeting experiences on the market.

This, said the company, gave participants an experience that was more engaging and realistic, as opposed to using avatars. This can make all the difference when it comes to training and problem-solving. Presenters can also share both physical content and digital content that allows users to co-create and collaborate.

The product promises a multi-dimensional experience for multiple users, with support for a 1:many presenter experience that enables remote participation from multiple users. Each user simultaneously receives a multi-dimensional experience, as opposed to other offerings that limit usage to single-angle views.

Jeetu Patel, executive vice-president and general manager at Cisco Security and Collaboration, said: “Our mission at Cisco is to empower the three billion digital workers on the planet to participate equally from anywhere in the world. Webex Hologram represents a large step towards our mission of delivering a work experience so seamless that there is no gap between virtual and in-person collaboration.”

Imagining the use case of automotive manufacturing, Cisco proposed that participants could interact with a physical prototype of a vehicle that’s shared in the AR experience to examine and provide feedback on the vehicle’s engine and undercarriage. Design renderings of the car and other digital content could also be shared during the immersive experience.

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Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, added: “Webex Hologram is a powerful tool for our design engineers, drivers and crews, as we continue to reimagine hybrid sports and support our team on tracks around the world.

“Rather than flying a technician to the racing team or explaining procedures through flat images, with the Hologram technology we can immediately show an engine component from every angle, convey sizing, and instruct on assembly and usage as if they were in person – all while saving countless hours in travel time.”

Pushing hardware capability further, Cisco announced it was partnering with Bang & Olufsen to create a luxury business headset for hybrid and remote workers seeking to reduce background noise from remote workspaces. Among the Bang & Olufsen Cisco 980 are Webex integrations and adaptive active noise cancellation.

“Today, customers want a product they can use at home, at work or in transition – and look and feel good when using it,” said Kristian Teär, CEO at Bang & Olufsen. “We’re integrating Cisco’s industry leading technologies with our renowned capabilities within sound, design, and craftsmanship to create the ultimate audio product for the hybrid world.”

“Clear and seamless audio is essential for the hybrid work environment,” added Jeetu Patel. “We’re thrilled to work with the leaders in luxury audio solutions, Bang & Olufsen, to bring to market the highest quality audio device for business – combining high-end aesthetic, complete functionality and fantastic quality.” 

Collaboration suite

Webex Hologram will also soon be part of the core Webex collaboration suite, enabling remote and hybrid workers to engage in immersive experiences using an AR headset of choice.

Another integration of the suite will be with Poll Everywhere, the world’s first real-time audience response technology. The partnership is designed to give Webex’s base of more than 600 million users new capabilities for live engagement during meetings. Poll Everywhere is now an embedded app available directly in Webex.

The companies say the confluence of the normalisation of hybrid and fully remote work models, and growing calls for inclusivity and flexibility from employers, has created a more pressing need for systems of virtual team engagement and feedback than ever before.

The Poll Everywhere embedded app in Webex gives users the ability to seamlessly integrate engagement and feedback activities into their existing content and workflows, saving time and effort for both meeting presenters and participants while also protecting user data.

Furthermore, the activities users create in Poll Everywhere for Webex are fully functional, and can be reused, modified, and analysed in depth when presenters log in to their accounts.

“We’re in a period of significant change as enterprises navigate the so-called Great Resignation and consider how to re-architect their work environments for the future of the workforce,” said Poll Everywhere CEO and co-founder Jeff Vyduna. “A seamless, accessible integration turns spectators into participants. It’s how employers will rise to this challenge.

“We’re excited to be partnered with Webex to help make a new standard of hybrid work not just possible, but engaging, inclusive and, above all, authentic,” he said.

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