Cisco Frees Up Video Conferencing Presenters to Move Around

The vendor's new PresenterTrack technology includes a camera at the back of the room that can follow people as they pace while they present.

Cisco video meeting

Cisco Systems officials are introducing technology designed to give speakers on video conferences more freedom to move around while presenting.

The company on May 9 unveiled PresenterTrack, a combination of a camera positioned at the back of the room and face-detection and image-processing software that enables the camera to automatically find and follow presenters as they move around at the front of the room. PresenterTrack allows people who are speaking during video conferences to move about more naturally while presenting, said Ross Daniels, senior director and Collaboration Marketing leader at Cisco.

Most video conferences involve people sitting behind tables, Daniels told eWEEK. However, most people would rather move around the room when making presentations to a group of people, regardless of whether those people are in the room or watching via streaming video.

"PresenterTrack really solves the problem of when someone in the room gets up and wants to present," he said. "It happens naturally once someone stands up and goes to the front of the room."

The offering is designed to dynamically detect and follow people as they stand to present, according to Cisco officials. The TelePresence Precision 60 camera, positioned at the back of the room, shows the front of the room and the audience in the room. When a person gets up to make a presentation, he or she moves to a predefined "trigger zone," which activates the PresenterTrack technology.

The software finds and the camera frames presenters, following them wherever on the stage they move. Once the presenter leaves the zone in the front of the room, the camera switches back to the broader view of the video conference.

In a demonstration, two Cisco employees showed how the technology is activated by one of them entering into the trigger zone. They also showed how the camera is able to follow multiple presenters who enter the zone at the same time.

A key part of this is ease of use, according to Daniels. Customers already using Cisco's MX700 or MX800 room systems or SX80 codec can get PresenterTrack by downloading the software and buying a Precision 60 camera. The software and camera work seamlessly and automatically, reducing the need for users to bring in the IT staff for help.

Daniels noted that other video conferencing vendors offer multiple cameras that can zoom in on the person talking, but those cameras are positioned at the front of the room. PresenterTrack is the only one that is situated at the back of the room, offering a single, integrated experience and following speakers as they move around in front of the others on the conference.

Cisco officials also want to make video more pervasive in WebEx online meetings. Daniels said the vendor has offered video capabilities in WebEx for several years, but had been charging extra for the experience. That is now changing.

The company is now including video capabilities with every subscription of WebEx Meeting Center at no extra cost. Now everyone can use video in WebEx, whether that’s within WebEx itself or in other system, such as a telepresence solution or Microsoft's Lync technology. In addition, people using video-capable devices such as smartphones, desktops, notebooks or room-based systems—even Microsoft's Skype for Business systems clients and Polycom systems—can join a WebEx meeting at no extra charge.

"What we wanted to do is make video collaboration part of every WebEx experience," Daniels said.

WebEx has been a key driver in Cisco's overall collaboration business. In the last three months of 2015, WebEx revenue grew 17 percent year over year, helping the larger collaboration business gain 3 percent in revenue and offsetting some softness in the company's unified communications business, Cisco officials said during a conference call in February regarding the quarterly numbers.