We’re all different and we’re all human beings, individuals locked in a body. The only way we can understand each other is by communicating. If only it were that simple. It’s hard enough in real life, but even more difficult with digital communication, especially the near-ubiquitous video conferencing. Face AR technology can help us.
We struggle to work out whether we trust someone when we’ve met them a few minutes earlier on a screen. We wonder whether the person enthusiastically talking to the camera thousands of miles away is pitching an idea they know very well is utter rubbish. Whether their poor performance in a job interview is a result of nerves. Whether our view of them and what they say is clouded by our deep prejudices.
There is fear and embarrassment when we turn on video conferencing. Trust and empathy are harder to achieve. What is true; what is a lie? These contradictions make video conferencing an awkward chore rather than a useful tool to do business and hire talent. Yet video is essential to modern business when companies are spread over the globe.
Pressure on time, budgets and the planet mean traveling is harder to justify. That means making decisions, planning strategy, pitching for business, and hiring staff has to be done remotely. And it is not working.
That, I believe, is about to change. Augmented Reality (AR) may well provide the answers. But beware. In the future, you will probably get hired through AR. You can also get fired by it.
With all the pressure described above, it’s hardly surprising that the seemingly innocuous sentence, “So shall we switch video conferencing on?” makes even the most hard-bitten executives wince.
For all of us, bar the least self-aware and the most annoyingly attractive, audio-only seems the sensible solution for long-distance conferencing.
But why are we coy about video calls? The answer is a bitter experience. First, the cameras present us in harsh, bright light, at unusual angles, blown up on a PC screen.
Second, people can see the background — not good if you haven’t tidied your desk/home office/spare bedroom. Not to mention children, cats and dogs stumbling into view.
We might have chuckled at the plight of Professor Robert Kelly, whose BBC interview was famously interrupted by an inquisitive toddler, but what made it car-crash viewing was knowing how easily a similar calamity could happen to us.
Concerns about how we present ourselves make us so nervous that we don’t articulate our thoughts as fluently and accurately as we might. It’s hard enough if you have a job with the company. What if this is your job interview? Multinationals hire around the world and applicants can expect to be interviewed by people in multiple international locations.
Banuba labs, the company of which I am a Managing Director, has devoted much research to solving these problems. And they are eminently fixable. For most people, the key issue is controlled. If they can present themselves digitally in the way they want to be perceived, rather than be a slave to the idiosyncrasies of the camera, they will be relaxed and engaging.
Here is where Face AR, an augmented-reality technology that enables its users to finesse their image via a camera, can prove to be a lifesaver. Video Face Beautification technology can tweak video-conference participants’ images in sophisticated ways.
On a basic level, this can be by adjusting the lighting and slight face enhancements. It is useful for everyone. From people who need to make video calls but don’t have the time to apply make-up, to those of us who just want a shinier, smarter version of ourselves.
As for the background of your room – by using video background changer technology you can now easily hide it for privacy purposes or change it for entertainment.
If you are still not convinced, then how about replicating yourself in an avatar? You can talk to an avatar (who is a real person) and be an avatar yourself, and feel both comfortable and human.
What about the customary handshakes that open and close all business conversations or interviews? AR representations of people’s tracked hands could act as a personal way to make first impressions or end on a high after a lengthy discussion. Even if the technology isn’t quite there to feel someone’s touch via this type of software, it will surely function as a good icebreaker before commencing a conversation.
The fear and awkwardness engendered by the current generation of video conferencing are bad enough for staff, but it is much worse for job applicants. Even the greatest technology companies admit they have hiring problems.
Google has made huge efforts to change its staff demographics, but the numbers remain steadfastly in favor of Caucasian men, with nearly 70 percent male and 53 percent white, according to its 2018 diversity report. One Google staffer notoriously claimed in an internal memo that the lack of female engineers was down to biological differences rather than discrimination.
Google is not alone. If we are honest, we would all admit that we tend to hire in our image. We find it easier to empathize with people like us. We also tend to hire people who are outgoing, confident and speak well. Clever introverts miss out.
Again, Face AR has a solution. And it is one that is not possible with face-to-face interviews. Face AR can remove or disguise all background information. That could include race, age, gender, voice, general facial expression and nervous ticks. It would truly be a blind interview.
Only then would it be possible to hire purely based on talent, imagination, intelligence and character. It might sound an extreme approach, but it is clear that diversity policies are failing to change the demographics of our great companies.
If brands are to be truly representative of their global audiences, then they must start again. Technology makes that possible.
So you really can be hired by augmented reality. But get it wrong and you could be fired by augmented reality, too.