The better the tech, the less it’s noticed — and the easier it is to connect

We all know what it’s like when a tech issue disrupts the flow of a conversation, a brainstorm, or even just a thought. From small team meetings to company-wide hybrid kickoffs, imperfect tech takes participants out of the moment, and connections — both literal and emotional — are interrupted.

The best technology operates so smoothly that it fades into the background. Think about  automatic heating and cooling in our homes, automatic doors, autopay for bills, automatic insulin pumps for people with diabetes, and even things like plumbing and Wi-Fi — we often take these advances for granted, and only really notice them when something isn’t working. 

And as long as people have been building communication technologies, they’ve worked to facilitate conversations that feel like participants may as well be in the same room. 

There’s nothing quite like face-to-face conversation, but we’ve made so much progress in building tech that makes remote meetings feel more natural. For example, both Owl Labs and Zoom have excellent noise leveling capabilities that make all calls clear and easy to hear. AI eye position software has been making waves online, letting presenters look at one screen but appear like they’re looking right at the camera and their audience. 

At Owl Labs, we’re on a mission to develop tech that leads to more human interactions. We want people to focus less on the technology, and more on the relationships and experiences that they can facilitate through smart tech advancements.

“Our products are designed to be as easy to use as possible. It doesn’t even matter where on the table you put the Meeting Owl, it’s smart enough to work anywhere. That’s the future of meeting technology — we’re building approachable products with as few buttons and settings to fiddle with that just work,” said Mark Schnittman, Co-Founder & CTO, Owl Labs.

Technology and human connection

Since the advent of the telephone, technology has helped people connect across distances. Rotary phones turned into touch tone phones and portable landlines, and then we entered the cellphone and smartphone era. Even more ways to communicate emerged with the internet, with people connecting online in chat rooms and then on social media, and connecting with people around the world on WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom.

Over the past several years, all personal and work interactions moved online. Some companies had already been letting employees work from home some days of the week, effectively testing out hybrid meetings, but the vast majority of the workforce was always in-office.

For many people, there was a steep learning curve at this stage. Wait, all meetings are now video meetings? How will we socialize? How can we run effective brainstorms if people are muted or off video? 

But today, we’ve learned to connect without being in the same room on a daily basis. Companies have developed best practices for hybrid communication, delineating what should be done on Slack, on email, and in meetings. We learned how to make hybrid meetings effective. Remote and hybrid work policies have been implemented and updated, and many employees now enjoy a flexible work model and simply work wherever they work best.

But with subpar video conferencing tech, remote and hybrid meeting participants are always aware of their distances. When tech isn’t working, or even if it’s just a poor setup, they’re reminded that they’re not actually in the same room, and the ability to connect with one another feels weaker. Plus, when it’s a pain to get a video meeting going, people are more likely to revert to a phone call or email, which can lead to less rich communication and poorer relationship-building in the workplace.

Luckily, we’ve made strides in the quality and seamlessness of video conferencing platforms

How has video conferencing tech improved?

We’ve come a long way: for decades, conference calls were the teleconferencing method of choice, but they didn’t allow for body language or facial expressions, so they were often used as  a last resort. Zoom meetings were a huge improvement, but typical hybrid Zoom meetings had in-office colleagues crowding around a laptop in order to be heard, and remote attendees would feel like secondary participants. Even meeting rooms with stationary front-of-the-room cameras mounted toTV monitors, made remote attendees feel like they were on the outside looking in — and that their contributions weren’t as valuable. 

Enter the Owl Labs Meeting Owl: its unique, 360° center-of-the-table design, plus excellent sound leveling and video quality, make for a totally different hybrid meeting experience. The AI-powered system spotlights whoever’s speaking, whether they’re calling from home or in the office. No matter where a participant is calling from, they know they’ll always be able to be seen and heard.  

Owl Labs technology is built to conduct hybrid meetings, making it easy to chat, brainstorm, plan, and execute new ideas among distributed teams. Just walk in, start the meeting, and everyone’s included — and the Meeting Owl works seamlessly, fading into the background and letting the meeting participants shine. 

Learn more about the Meeting Owl >>

How can we make hybrid meetings even better?

Focusing on meeting equality

Meeting equality means doing everything possible to ensure every person in every meeting feels heard and valued. True meeting equality starts with working to dismantle biases that make marginalized employees feel overlooked. And once you’ve created an inclusive culture, adding the right technology can make things even better for all employees. 

For too long, remote employees have worried that their “proximity bias” or decreased visibility and lack of presence in the office means they’ll be less likely to be promoted, or that their managers see them as less hardworking. But with Owl Labs technology, meetings can be run with equality in mind, every time.

Investing in even more natural tech that’s easy to forget about

Using a Meeting Owl 3 is unlike any other kind of video conferencing camera. At first, it can be an exciting change — but the beauty of the Meeting Owl 3 is that once you’re used to it, it fades into the background, allowing conversations and ideas to flow seamlessly. And at Owl Labs, we’re constantly looking to create new products and setups that make hybrid meetings feel even more natural. 

Keep colleagues connected

Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy shared that the Meeting Owl made for a complete shift in their meetings. “Here was something that left the physical meeting untouched, but allowed the remote participant an extraordinary level of engagement and participation."

Learn more about how Owl Labs technology, built for hybrid meetings, can facilitate connection among your teammates.

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