Crestron is proud to receive this new certification for its multi-camera, intelligent video system
Oct. 10, 2023 - It's a big moment: After submitting its Automate™ VX multi-camera speaker tracking solution for the Microsoft Teams® Room Certification Program, Crestron has now officially received news of the certification. It's well deserved. The solution's a stunner, providing a remote viewer with a composite view of large, high-impact meeting rooms, a view that includes closeup, framed shots of speakers as they talk, along with a "whole-room" view of the room that provides critical context for the virtual attendee.
This means that the Automate VX solution is part of a fairly elite class of products. "Microsoft has high standards for the partners that they choose — they're stringent about the quality of the image that comes through the Microsoft Teams experience and the compatibility of the systems," said Crestron's Director of Intelligent Video, Rony Sebok, as she prepared to give Neil Fluester (the host of the CresTV podcast) a demo of the technology.
Microsoft's High Standards for Certification
As Microsoft defines it, the certification "ensures certified devices meet a high standard, with higher performance targets and quality metrics across the entire Microsoft Teams experience (audio, video, user interface)."
Dig a little deeper, and it becomes even more impressive: That certification standard, coupled with Crestron's stringent durability and reliability testing, means that the Automate VX solution has been through multiple rounds of testing to ensure that it provides a best-in-class experience with minimum effort from the Microsoft Teams software end-user. "This is a very rigorous process," says Sam Kennedy, Crestron's senior director of product marketing. "Not every device or peripheral system makes the cut."
"The certification solidifies the partnership between Crestron and Microsoft and gives our customers confidence that going forward, if they buy an Automate VX system with Microsoft Teams, these two solutions will work seamlessly together," adds Sebok.
The Automate VX Solution:
Already in Use at Microsoft
"Microsoft had already deployed the Automate VX solution in some of its larger meeting rooms at their headquarters," notes Kennedy. As Microsoft's VP of Microsoft Teams Software Calling and Devices Ilya Bukshteyn mentioned in his conversation with Crestron EVP of Global Marketing Brad Hintze at the 2023 Modern Work Summit, the need for quality hybrid meeting technology in medium and large rooms was becoming a big ask from customers. The pre-pandemic focus on outfitting huddle rooms with videoconferencing tech had begun to wane a bit, especially at the executive level, and the need for connected boardrooms was growing.
Bukshteyn had seen the solution in action, and he understood it met a fundamental need in the world of hybrid collaboration:
The thing we hear very clearly from CEOs is that everyone has to see and be seen, hear and be heard. The technology has to be non-intrusive — it has to fade away. The great thing about the Automate VX system is that ability to create a multi-camera environment … to create that immersive experience.
Part of the reason Bukshteyn and his colleagues were so impressed? They simply hadn't seen a multi-camera, intelligent video system as intuitive and robust for larger spaces as the one Crestron had submitted for certification.
"There's a lot of complex technology driving a result that can be summed up pretty concisely," says Kennedy. "We've created an intuitive solution that drives true meeting equity."
So What Does "Meeting Equity" Mean, Exactly?
Bukshteyn touched on it in his remarks at the Modern Work Summit: Meeting equity is about every participant having the ability to hear and be heard, see and be seen, no matter where they're physically located. A single camera on the short wall of a large conference room doesn't deliver the best experience for every meeting type. That "view down a bowling alley" robs remote participants of seeing gestures, processing inflections properly, and taking in all the nonverbal cues that make human interactions, well, human.
Auto-tracking camera technology — keying on and framing a speaker as they're talking with the use of multiple cameras — is vital to the equation. "Another frustration we heard from Ilya was the inability of static, single-shot solutions to switch the shot when a presenter rose to speak with their back to the camera," says Kennedy. In addition to blocking the view of other in-person collaborators, that angle wasn't exactly what one would call flattering.
The Automate VX solution is flexible, too. "There are a variety of modes and settings that allow the end user to create the composite display image that best suits their needs," says Cara Shannon, Crestron's senior manager of product marketing. There's a "Conversation Mode," for example, that leaves two speakers on display at the same time, side-by-side, even as one of the two stops talking to yield to the next speaker. An internal setting will eventually shift to a speaker as the other party stops talking for a time (and the length of that "two-shot" is also customizable). Additionally, there's an option to include a wide shot of the entire room in the frame, a feature that provides needed context for most users: It shows how all the meeting attendees are reacting at a given moment.
"Cutting" Between Speakers Automatically
By keying on a speaker using the right microphone solution, the Automate VX solution handles all the switching and framing automatically. There's no need for a human director for each shot — such as you'd find in a TV news studio, for example. The nuts and bolts of this process were laid out in a previous post on the Crestron blog:
With the Automate VX solution, primary and secondary cameras for the positions in the room allow for clean cuts between speakers. The first camera remains live on the first active speaker, the second camera moves to the position for the next speaker, and then the system switches to the second camera.
The panning, tilting, and zooming of the camera are absent from the video, providing a higher-quality viewing experience for the remote participant.