Polycom Puts Facial Recognition Into Video Conference Camera

The company also is adding noise reduction features into its RealPresence products and introducing a software development kit.

video conferencing

Polycom continues to expand the capabilities of its video conferencing portfolio to make collaboration easier and more natural, regardless of where people are or what devices they're using.

The company is rolling out new facial-recognition technology that enables the camera to track everyone in the room and, when used with other Polycom software, analyzes data to give businesses information from the meeting, such as how many people were there at the beginning and at the end.

In addition, Polycom is enhancing its offerings with software that blocks background noise and makes scheduling and running video meetings easier. The new and improved products are part of a larger push by Polycom to address the changes in the video conferencing space that are being driven by such trends as greater worker mobility, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practices, cloud computing and big data.

Workers are demanding to be able to collaborate with colleagues, partners and customers whenever they want, wherever they are and on whatever device they are using. Businesses will still run systems inside their buildings, but with a greater number of employees working from the road or from remote locations, they also have to rely more on software and the cloud.

"With the right combination of technology, people and processes, organizations can improve productivity, boost innovation and hone their competitive edge," Polycom President and CEO Peter Leav said in a statement.

IDC analysts have been tracking the declining sales of video conferencing equipment, saying that the ability to collaborate continues to be important, but that the focus is moving to cloud- and software-based solutions. Established vendors like Polycom and Cisco Systems have been rapidly building out their software and cloud offerings, while small players like Vidyo and Blue Jeans Network are looking to grow their market presence without having any hardware legacy.

The new capabilities Polycom is bringing to its product families will go a long way in helping the company keep its place in a highly competitive market, according to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research.

"Polycom has … made the IT administrator's job easier with products that deploy faster, require less support and interoperate with a broader ecosystem," Kerravala wrote in a post on the No Jitter blog site. "I like the focus on providing analytics information to aid businesses in understanding how the products are being used so that better decisions can be made regarding what to deploy, where to deploy it and what kind of results to expect.
"Extra steps that Polycom is taking to improve quality, usability and interoperability should significantly help its competitive position in an increasingly crowded video collaboration market. Polycom needs to compete more as a platform vendor that can deliver a high quality collaboration experience to any device from the cloud, on premises or in a hybrid model."

Polycom's EagleEye Producer camera technology automatically finds and tracks everyone in the room—even as they move about the room—which enables people to work in a more natural way rather than having to conform to limitations inherent in fixed cameras. It even will track people who come in after the meeting has started. In addition, the product, which is available now, can be used with Polycom's RealPresence Group Series solutions and its RealPresence Resource manager software to collect and report such data as the number of participants at the beginning and end of the meeting, how long each person attended and other information that businesses can use for planning purposes, company officials said.

Also new is Polycom's RealPresence Video App software development kit (SDK), which developers can use to put the vendor's technology into their own applications. It also will help Polycom extend the reach of its technology into a broad range of businesses, Kerravala wrote.

Polycom also is introducing new technologies to make it easier to hear and be heard on video calls. NoiseBlock is a new feature of the company's RealPresence Group Series and RealPresence Collaboration Server offerings that automatically eliminates such noises as shuffling paper, keyboard typing and food wrappers, officials said. For mobile users, Acoustic Bubble is now part of Polycom's RealPresence Desktop software. The feature also eliminates outside noises, from traffic to background conversations.

There also were other improvements, including better interoperability with Microsoft's Lync 2013 unified communications platform.