Canon Tackles Remote Collaboration at CES 2022
A camera-driven approach to social virtual reality and hybrid working
While we’ve already discussed the surprisingly large consumer virtual reality (VR) presence at CES 2022, it was not the only VR-related development that caught our eye. Founded in 1937, Canon has a rich history of camera development, production printers, copiers, digital scanners, and many more innovations. Recently, we were able to hear a little about how they were adapting their software solutions toward hybrid working and, at CES 2022, we heard a lot more.
At a dedicated panel session, Canon united new ideas around one theme: TogetherNext—or designing for a collective and collaborative future. While their fundamental goal was nothing particularly new, Canon’s approach to providing remote collaboration solutions for hybrid workplaces is unique, and one that feels like a natural extension of the company’s camera-focused past.
Canon’s Camera-Centric Vision for Remote Collaboration
Arguably, the headliner of Canon’s TogetherNext event was the AMLOS System—short for “Activate My Line of Sight”—which is all about allowing presenters to guide, direct, and focus cameras during remote collaboration sessions. This approach is immediately different from so many other remote collaboration systems (think Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams) because the camera is more than just a device attached to the computer screen.
Canon’s AMLOS System is built for workers who have to present from a location to a remote audience, conveying a lot of information that may not be immediately readable for those who aren’t physically there. During the event, a Canon spokesperson used a whiteboard as an example. They scribbled a note on a post-it, then stuck it to the board—showing how difficult it was to read via the default camera view. But, with a movement of the hand, the user was able to redirect the camera right to the note, and the software automatically focused on the image, turning a tiny image into the full screen. Now the note was clearly visible.
It is interesting that, while so many organizations are thinking about virtual spaces for remote collaboration, Canon is developing ways to optimize the physical space we already have.
What Distinguishes Canon’s Enterprise VR Solution from Competitors
Speaking of virtual spaces and VR technology, Canon had its own social VR offering to discuss during its panel. Dubbed “Kokomo,” this software solution is (like many) about creating compelling meetings in VR. That said, that’s where the similarities end. While most current VR meeting tools create a quick avatar to represent the user, Canon’s solutions leans on—you guessed it—external cameras to better capture the user’s face and transplant it directly into a virtual environment.
Canon has stressed that one of the key goals of Kokomo is to create that feeling of real togetherness and, as such, their solution ditches cartoonish, low-textured virtual spaces for richly detailed environments that will help enhance the feeling of togetherness. The Kokomo solution currently works with several Canon cameras, including the Canon RF 5.2mm f/2.8L Dual Fisheye Lens. While this solution certainly sounds visually impressive, I can’t help but wonder what the users will be able to do in this virtual space, or if it really is limited solely to togetherness. This is not to diminish Canon’s accomplishment, but rather point out that many other social VR apps (business and personal) have placed graphics at the backburner to focus more on interaction options within the virtual space.
Without having tried the software myself, I cannot fully comment on its capabilities. That said, I will mention that use-case-specific XR solutions (whether AR or VR) tend to have more success than solutions that try to fully replace entire complex interaction systems. In a recent podcast done with Campfire CEO and Founder Jay Wright, he extolled the benefits of XR solutions starting small and perfecting one task before expanding. Canon has already said they plan to build upon the Kokomo platform, so time will tell what new functionality it adds.
Why Is Canon Pushing Toward Hybrid Work Solutions?
Between Kokomo and AMLOS, one theme is common: Canon’s TogetherNext is clearly about being together, no matter the distance. These solutions further cement the company’s direction as one looking to serve a decentralized, hybrid world—one where it’s not always possible to meet face-to-face. Some of this is, of course, responding to the pandemic; still, another aspect may be the company wanting to be part of the internet’s next potential evolution (i.e., the metaverse).
The fact is that we’re entering a new stage—everyone senses it, but no one is fully sure about what it will be. The pandemic has already lasted long enough to likely make that stage hybrid, especially since so many workers enjoy the benefits of flexible working. By developing stronger hybrid offerings, Canon strengthens its ability to meet the needs of its business clients today, whether it’s for remote collaboration or just high-end social VR interaction. Even once the pandemic is finally over (and at this point, there is no real end in sight), many will be less comfortable living and working in closed spaces than they were before March 2020.
By leveraging its camera-focused past, Canon has created remote collaboration offerings that I haven’t really seen from anyone else. It will be interesting to see just how well they stack up against the competition.
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