We like to do things a little different at Revolve Robotics – like setting up an ad-hoc Hybrid Meeting space when we couldn’t host our January Board Meeting at our office for a number of reasons. San Francisco traffic was bad due to preperatory Super Bowl street closures, so we took our own Kubi advice, and decided to use engaging meeting format for both in-person and remote participants. All the technology we needed for three remote participants on Kubi telepresence robots fit into a backpack – and then we leveraged the sharing economy. Note, if you have remote participants in important meetings, here’s How To Bring Them In on Kubi.
We had heard about new services such as Breather and LiquidSpace that we think of as AirBNB for Conference Rooms. And, as a start-up with limited resources, we thought, “Hey, let’s try it out as opposed to saying ‘our office is too small and we need another conference room’ “. And, with Kubi’s portability, we thought, lets challenge ourselves to see how difficult it would be to set-up a Hybrid Meeting in a brand new conference space.
The day before the meeting, we searched for available conference rooms within 1 mile of our office on Breather and LiquidSpace that could meet our needs where we were going to have 3 people attending in person and needed to set-up Kubi’s for 3 remote people. So, we figured a conference room that fit 6-8 people would be a perfect fit. We were very impressed to see the quality of spaces on these sites. Here were our favorites:
We went for the one on Breather that was $35/hr and booked it for 3 hours for our 2 hour board meeting and a 1 hour customer meeting we needed to host afterwards. Booking was very easy on Breather.com and it even sent us a text message to download the app that gave instructions of how to get to the location and to unlock the code to get into the space. It felt a lot like renting a Zipcar.
I decided that in the spirit of reducing environmental impact, for exercise, but mostly not have to deal with Super Bowl parking and traffic, that I would ride my bike into the Board Meeting. So, I put 4 Kubis, 4 tablets and my laptop in my backpack and hopped on my bike for the 5 minute bike ride.
I arrived 20 minutes early, and unfortunately, they would not let us into the Breather space until 5 minutes before our booked time.
Once we got inside, we were very impressed with the space. Nice furniture and lighting and they even included a yoga mat which Jeff, our VP of Marketing was happy about. We had to get the meeting started, so we connected the tablets and laptop to wifi and started testing out the connectivity. For this meeting, we used Zoom Video Conferencing which recently introduced enhance Kubi controls functionality that helped make Hybrid Meetings possible. For our second meeting, we used Vidyo which also supports Hybrid Meetings with integrated Kubi controls using our Vidyo on Kubi iOS App. In the calendar invite for the board meeting, we sent out the meeting URL to the 2 board members attending remotely. They were already in the Zoom meeting room, so once we connected, they were instantly on the Kubis. Since the new features in Zoom required a software update on their side and they were relatively new to Zoom, it took us a few minutes to instruct them how to update their software. Once they did, we pinned each one of them to a Kubi and they requested controls of the Kubi, and Ta-Da, our board members were teleported into the conference room. They showed up full screen on the tablets and were looking around and interacting as if they were there in person.
The board members looked great on the Kubis, but they commented that things were a little blurry on our side. So, we did a speed test of the internet and found that there was 4 mbps download speed but only 0.25 mbps upload speed which explained why it wasn’t very good connection. But, the connection did not drop for the entire meeting and both sides could hear each-other well, so the interaction was good. For next time, we will want to find a space that has faster internet connectivity or bring our own high speed router (which is what we often do for trade-shows). We recently purchased this awesome looking router, Netgear Nighthawk X8 for $449 and it works incredibly. But, unfortunately I didn’t have any more space in my backpack for it.
We talked with the Breather rep after our booking and they said that we could have called their support to get things improved on the internet, but we didn’t really have time to do it and it was working good enough. My suggestion would be that they actually do the speed test of the internet and include that on their site so that their customers can know how good it will be ahead of time.
There were two other challenges with this specific meeting room space:
- There were big windows letting the sunlight in which is nice for those in person, but ends up being difficult for cameras to get good view of the in-person participants. We adjusted the positioning so that the windows were behind the Kubis, so they could see pretty well, but if the meeting room would have had curtains to be able to block the direct sunlight, then the remote participants could have had a better video feed
- The meeting space was on a street that was having construction and the windows were not too well sound insulated, so it was rather noisy. Fortunately, we used a Jabra 510 speakerphone connected to a Macbook Air connected to the Zoom meeting which was pretty good for managing the noise cancellation of the background noise.
Having set-up our Board Meeting as a Hybrid Meetings with Kubis meant it was easy to get anyone from around the world to pop in even for just 5 minutes. Since we were excited about the new features in Zoom and wanted to thank them and discuss the roadmap for future improvement, I invited right from the Zoom meeting the CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, to join us for a few minutes in our board meeting. He popped in and we told him to request the camera controls of ‘Bali Kubi’ the Kubi we set-up for him and within 10 seconds, he was teleported onto the Kubi and controlling it to look around and interact with those of us in person and the others on the Kubis.
We chatted with Eric for about 10 minutes and then he left the Zoom meeting. Wow, that was incredible, we literally teleported the Zoom CEO into the board meeting in San Francisco from his office 1 hour south in San Jose and it only took him 10 minutes not 2 hours and 10 minutes or more! And, he didn’t have to drive or deal with San Francisco traffic or parking. He could have been anywhere in the world with an internet connection and had the same experience.
We wrapped up the rest of our Board Meeting with the entire team charged up with an excitement to share this type of experience with companies, students and doctors around the globe. We really feel it will make peoples lives better by reducing the time, stresses, and costs of commuting, further breaking down the barriers of distance.
It’s incredible how far video conferencing has come that now with a $500 Kubi and $400-500 iPads and a cloud video conferencing application like Zoom or Vidyo, we were able to have this type of engaging telepresence experience.
Here’s a short history of video conferencing: http://www.methodshop.com/2014/11/video-conferencing-facts.shtml
Here’s what we learned from this experience:
- Check the internet connection speed before the meeting to ensure good quality video for both sides (we recommend 2mbps upload and download speeds that can be tested at www.speedtest.net)
- To be safe, bring in your own router. In fact, it can even make it easier so that you do not need to enter wifi passwords on each devices because you can have the tablets pre-connected to the router you bring
- Book a space that has curtains or shades to block any sunlight that may make it difficult for cameras to give a good image
- Bring a speakerphone that has noise cancellation in case there is any unexpected background noise
We will definitely plan to do this again for future meetings and with improving upon the items we learned, we expect that it will be a great experience.
If you want to try this out for your own meetings, check out our blog post about how to set up a Kubi Hybrid Meeting. Please contact our team for a demo, to get a Kubi trial or to purchase Kubis. And, if you want to try out Zoom, contact us for a free trial too or you can get a special $100 off bundle deal when purchasing Kubi and Zoom.
Thanks and we look forward to hearing about your Hybrid Meetings with Kubi.