Zoom showed off a complete slate of new software and hardware designed to make conference calls a bit easier for the average business professional.

The platform already helps users hold video meetings, webinars, and chats across desktops, phones, mobile devices, and conference room systems. Since 2018, the company has added over 300 new upgrades to the platform, including live transcription, simultaneous translations, a room scheduling system, and other integrations with IoT devices.

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Oded Gal, chief product officer for Zoom, spoke to TechRepublic about the new releases and updates to Zoom software. He said the company was using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, proximity and location-based services, face detection, and personalization to improve the quality of meetings.

“We are proud that everything we’ve built at Zoom — our core vide architecture to our UI is designed to make your meetings, as our customers say, ‘just work’. But we’re not stopping there,” Gal said. “We are about empowering people to do more with video communications like deploy intelligent Zoom Rooms quickly on purpose-built appliances, use Zoom Phone in new geographies and new use cases, and streamline laborious tasks such as creating and sharing meeting notes. It’s all designed to remove friction and replace it with empowering communications experiences, so you can do more.”

During the Zoomtopia 2019 event on Tuesday, the company announced that many of the newest features would be available by January 2020.

Zoom room

Zoom users will now be able to manage meeting schedules through their “Find a room” feature, which lets people see upcoming meetings and scheduling meetings on-the-fly. They’ve added a whiteboard to the platform that can be used on any Zoom Rooms for Touch device. The whiteboard uses an interactive display and a computer without any need for a room controller, camera, or audio components.

Users will also be able to set the Zoom Rooms camera up in a way that will automatically switch screens depending on who is speaking. Participants can now create profiles within Zoom that remembers specific settings. When the microphone picks up a participant’s voice, it will then change the screen to their specific settings.

The new interpreter feature makes it easier for meetings to be held in multiple languages. Users will be able to automatically plug into the feed connected to an interpreter, something that was a problem for customers in the past.

“Our idea is that, when I join a meeting as an attendee, I can choose the language of choice and then I will be able to listen to any interpreter that is joining the meeting as well,” Gal said. “The interpreter, in real time, will relay what the presenter says.”

Zoom even added a capability that will allow companies to include their own signage and logos within the video software. There will even be widgets for things like the weather and RSS feeds.

One of the key features the company highlighted was the Zoom platform’s integration with other office hardware. Using a Zoom room controller, customers will be able to add controls for lighting, window shades, or any other IP-controlled devices.

The company announced a partnership with global communications company Poly, which created two new purpose-built all-in-one video bars that dramatically simplify the video conferencing experience for Zoom Rooms.

“With the Poly Studio X Series, using Zoom in a huddle room or conference room becomes even easier and more powerful,” said Zoom CEO Eric Yuan in a statement. “A conference room with a single purpose-built device running Zoom means customers get simplicity, ease-of-use, and innovation at their fingertips.”

Zoom phone

During his interview, Gal told TechRepublic that for the Zoom phone, the company was expanding its services to Ireland, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico. They already provide service in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, but Gal said the company will start native Zoom Phone beta testing in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Gal noted that the Zoom App Marketplace was also progressing rapidly since it was released last year. Partners of the company and third-party developers have created more than 160 apps. Zoom can now integrate fully with Microsoft programs as well as other security services like NICE.

In addition, the help of Otter.ai, Zoom Meetings will now provide users with a live transcript that can be changed and adapted in real time. “What we are doing is merging it into our interface so now you can actually have everything supported from our own client,” Gal said.

With the new and improved Zoom, customers can actually take notes, create action items, and build timelines all within the video platform.

Using AI, the Zoom system automatically creates lists of action items that are sent to all of the participants after the meeting ends.

“In the past, you had to combine multiple services, and it was really hard for the end user and organizer because of the complexity of bringing all the services together. Now we are merging it into our client, and making it easy to use and easy to organize,” Gal said. “We are really expanding our service and with Zoom Meeting, we are introducing a new set of features ,and we are integrating all kinds of new technology and interfaces. We want to empower the customer to use this for multiple capabilities and take it to the next level with the new technology we’re offering.”

Image: Photographer: Andrey Popov