Alaska Patent of the Month – May 2021

As many parts of the world were told to stay at home, and workplaces moved employees to remote positions, video conferencing became a vital part of our lives… When it comes to calls with many participants, a social aspect is really lost, as people are limited in their interactions and are left to simply watch the speaker. Side conversations are not possible or done on other platforms, or else the audio will play over each other. The system may also become a little overwhelmed if bandwidth is limited. Katmai Tech Holdings, LLC has designed a video conference system that aims to bring that social aspect back, using avatars and 3D representations of a virtual environment to “walk around”.

The interface gives a space for the user’s avatar to be displayed, and an area for them to navigate. They have integrated navigation features including changes the orientation of your camera to pan and tilt within the virtual environment. These features have been inspired by games like Roblox, where a single server can support massive amounts of users at once despite the graphics needed. Each viewer is represented by an avatar with their video stream included. So the viewer uses their camera as usual, and the system automatically texture maps their face onto their avatar. Avatars can walk around the virtual environment, getting closer to another viewer if desired, and simulating in-person networking. Katmai developed the system to register proximity to other avatars, and provide audio mixing to help simulate real life. For instance, if you are close to viewer B and far from viewer C, you will hear viewer B more clearly, while viewer C will be at a low or muted volume. To further enhance the functionality, if viewer C is far enough away, the video would not be loaded, relieving the bandwidth and allowing the system to focus on what is nearby. As viewer C approaches you and passes a threshold of proximity, the system will then load their video.

This design helps to bring back the social aspect and “ambience” of a conference. For instance, a lecture, music event, sales meeting, craft shows, or watching esports all have different vibes which can be better represented in this virtual video conference system. Being able to better interact with other members can help enhance the attention of viewers and improve the success of the video call overall.

Are you developing new software for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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