CHICAGO — Steelcase unveiled concept spaces and technology at NeoCon 2012 that will optimize video interactions at work, create an intuitive, dynamic and natural video experience, and will address key barriers, such as light and sound quality, and privacy. These new concepts are in response to an emerging behavior Steelcase research identified: people living on video.
“Workers today are at the epicenter of a major shift in work styles — they are using video in their personal and business lives and are working virtually more than ever before,” notes Allan Smith, Vice President, Marketing at Steelcase. Video traffic has increased significantly, with large companies experiencing an increase of 70 percent annually according to recent Cisco research. Sixty-two percent of employees regularly collaborate with people in different time zones and geographies. “Work is more global today and we need to interact with colleagues located all over the world. Meanwhile, video technology has grown rapidly and become more accessible — it’s portable, one-button simple and cheap. But we realized that the physical spaces for video conferencing haven’t kept pace with the technology. People would use video even more if the experience was more comfortable.”
Steelcase research found that people get distracted when they see themselves on video. Seventy-two percent of workers who provided an applicable response agree that they notice their physical appearance on the screen when on a video conference with a colleague for business, according to a recent online study conducted by Harris Interactive for Steelcase in May/June 2012 among 2,209 U.S. adults. Another 58 percent who provided an applicable response agree that they are concerned about looking tired, or washed out due to the lighting conditions or camera quality on their computer when on a video conference. “They notice how the lighting makes them look tired and exaggerates bags under their eyes, or the camera is pointing up their nose,” observed Smith. “Sometimes you can’t see all the people in the conference or you see people on large-scale screens that feel huge and overwhelming. So while people are thinking about all those negatives, they’re not fully engaged – they’re less productive.”
Steelcase’s concept uses space to augment video technology to address these obstacles. The company is showcasing spaces that are optimized for one-on-one interaction, but can also accommodate two people for impromptu meetings or calls. These units, which are visually reminiscent of a photo booth, feature a “Core Unit” display screen that contain everything needed for a high-quality video call: the monitor, microphone, speakers, processor and a camera are all embedded in a display that can be height-adjusted so it feels like you’re really making eye contact. The spaces offer controlled lighting, a flattering background and is acoustically enhanced – the outside surface reflects sound and the inside surface absorbs it.
Additionally, Steelcase built on its successful media:scape product line, with its iconic “puck” that allows multiple users to switch between data and video. The company transformed the physical “puck” into a virtual app for iPod or iPhone which allows users to control the sound and lighting and also any additional content or media users want to display.
The company projects that video will become a dominant form of communication at work because of the growing importance of creative collaboration. “In the ’80s and ’90s work was about process,” states Smith. “Today work is about creativity and innovation. People need to collaborate with content experts all over the world, and that work requires trust and a high degree of interaction. We can’t always be face-to-face, so we need video interactions to feel natural and authentic.”
Also on display are solutions for small, medium, and large multipurpose spaces that aim to amplify teams’ performance by allowing videoconferencing to facilitate easier content sharing between local and globally distributed teams.
Some of the concepts incorporate Steelcase’s existing product lines, including workstations, benches and private offices, while others are entirely new conceptual designs that can offer privacy, and sound and light optimization inside open, collaborative office environments that may lack these features.
After studying the trends and projections for video use, the Steelcase Design Studio and IDEO developed an array of concept prototypes. These concepts underwent further research and prototyping as they were used by employees at GE.
“I’m the only person on my team who lives in Europe. My colleagues are in North America and we rely on phone to communicate, where it’s hard to hear and to engage. When we tested the prototypes, I could imagine sitting at the table, working with my team, but still be thousands of miles away,” commented one study participant.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Steelcase from May 31 – June 4, 2012 among 2,209 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Katie Hasse at firstname.lastname@example.org.