Socially Intelligent Meetings

Socially Intelligent Meetings



Engaging meetings need to be contextually adaptive and inclusive

Video meetings are surprisingly difficult. Although we can see and hear one another on almost any device, content and control are isolated on devices or physically limited to the room. Social nuances and engagement are hard for remote participants. The Socially Intelligent Meetings work stream explores how to improve video-mediated collaboration by bringing social intelligence to meetings. There are four major strands of this work.

1. Social Devices

The Social Devices work stream explores how to enable devices to act as companions. We look to ways in which our computing devices can be dynamically aggregated and disaggregated to create user experiences that adapt to the changing social and activity demands we encounter throughout the day. Some of this work has shipped in Microsoft Teams. See our Garage Wall of Fame post Mobile Sharing and Companion Experiences for Microsoft Teams Meetings.

These features grew out of several older explorations of video-calling and meetings.

  • Office Social (2016): An experimental slideware technology that enabled open access to shared interaction with slides across multiple devices.
  • Ad hoc adaptability in video calling (2015): A position paper in which we explore ad hoc adaptability across devices in video-calling. We note the current difficulty of even simple combinations, discuss design issues, briefly report on a study of ad hoc screen mirroring, and note future directions.
  • SkypeBeam (2014): An experimental system that enable lightweight multi-user wireless smartphone mirroring within a video call. The system enabled multiple smartphones to share both digital content as well as physical artefacts when mirroring the live view from the phone camera feed.

2. Reasoning about people and the room

The traditional video meeting stage is neither engaging nor inclusive because it is not geared to present customised and augmented social presence. Machine perception can reason about people and the room to produce meeting experiences that helps all users, local or remote, and inclusive of all abilities, understand and engage with the people and content of meetings. need to design compelling user experiences of augmented social presence, and we need to understand the communicative, organisational, and ethical fundamentals of how people will respond to and use such experiences.

Machine perception of a video meeting

3. Technologised interaction

We still have a lot to learn about how asymmetries of video-mediated communication really matter to participants, and how we can best leverage technology in geo-distributed hybrid meetings. Thus as well as the feature-focused research above, we also explore the fundamental human understandings that affect how we use various video calling technologies in various kinds of social relationships.

4. Sustainable global conferences

In line with Microsoft’s environmental and diversity and inclusion values, we are exploring a principled and practical approach to sustainable global conferences, to reduce the need for energy-intensive travel and the effects of time and funding inequality. Energy-intensive travel has been an enabler for global knowledge transfer and academic/business relationship building. Currently, many knowledge sharing events such as academic and industry conferences and conventions require travel from many participants to a single location, providing opportunities for intense formal and informal knowledge sharing, networking, and community. However, such conferences also require significant travel, which is often highly energy-intensive, contributing to deleterious environmental effects, and also requires significant funding and time, which tend to heighten social and cultural inequalities. Enabling the beneficial outcomes of global conferences without dependence on energy-intensive travel is a ‘wicked problem’ that requires holistic understanding of the many social, economic, and institutional needs of conference attendance. There are many technological developments that could support aspects of geo-distributed knowledge sharing events, but there is, as yet, comprehensive suite of software, hardware, and protocol tools for enabling geo-distributed events that deliver the apparent value of local events, nor a path to enable conference organisers to easily adopt technological innovations if they existed.

A woman working at home has meeting using video calling, with two people and graphs on screen.