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Living on Video

Winner - Bronze

Competition: Spark:Concept
Designer: Steelcase Design Studio
Design Type: Concept

Workers today are at the epicenter of a major shift in work styles — they are increasingly using video in their personal and business lives and are working virtually more than ever before. According to Cisco research, video traffic has increased significantly, with large companies experiencing an increase of 70 percent annually. In addition, distributed collaboration is also becoming paramount to the office, with 62 percent of employees regularly collaborating with people in different time zones and geographies. Because video technology has grown rapidly and become more accessible —it’s portable, one-button simple and cheap – it’s a clear choice for collaboration between distributed teams. Today, a new behavior is clearly emerging: people living on video. However, physical spaces in the workplace for video conferencing haven’t kept pace with technology, and workers find current settings uncomfortable and often, even unauthentic. To address this gap, Steelcase has unveiled concept spaces and technology 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. After all, the benefits of using video for work are endless. Seeing co-workers in person can help teams build trust and collaborate more effectively, which can lead to increased ROI for companies. When teams use the phone for these interactions people often multi-task or are distracted; they’re not always fully engaged in the conversation. When studying what barriers prevent further adaption of video in the workplace, Steelcase research found that people get distracted when they see themselves on video. While they may be comfortable chatting on Facetime or Skype with their mom or friends, at work, they’re often concerned about how they look or sound. In fact, 72 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. People notice how the lighting makes them look tired and exaggerates bags under their eyes, or the camera is pointing up their nose. Large-scale screens often feel huge and overwhelming, or sometimes, the entire participant is not visible on the screen. While people are thinking about all those negatives, they’re not fully engaged. Steelcase’s concept uses space to augment video technology to address these obstacles. Right now, the company is working on 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 contains 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. 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. While in the ’80s and ’90s work was about process, 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. These new concepts can help achieve that goal. 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. The concept prototypes were created by Steelcase Design Studio and IDEO after they studied the trends and projections for video use. These concepts underwent further research and prototyping as they were used by employees at GE.