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Zoomtopia 2021 wrap-up
27 October, 2021

Zoom announces exciting new features for research and education at Zoomtopia

Zoomtopia previewed upcoming enhancements to Zoom including live automated translation, Zoom Events and virtual conferences, and other quality of life improvements

In September, Zoom’s annual global user conference Zoomtopia previewed several upcoming enhancements to their video conferencing platforms. These enhancements will benefit Australian educators, researchers, student centres, and events teams.

AARNet’s Zoom advisor, Geoff Lambert, took the time to join the late night sessions and outline the major announcements for an AARNet Zoom “Brunch and Learn” webinar. Joined by Zoom administrators, learning and teaching advisors, and interested educators from across Australia, Geoff summarised the five most interesting features coming to Zoom over the next 12 months.

Live automated translation

This new feature allows two-way translation between English and several other common languages in real-time via artificial intelligence and machine translation. This feature further enhances the now global reach of Zoom, and improves global understanding by reducing language barriers in communication.

Language institutes and cultural bodies across the world were invited by Zoom to participate in early trials and assist in providing training and testing during the beta phase, with positive initial results. Despite the inevitable inaccuracies in the early release of such a real-time feature, the technology will benefit global research in the long-term, and will be a vital and cost-effective support system for students with English as a second language.

Zoom Events and the virtual conferences

In July this year, Zoom released a solid scheduling, ticketing, and virtual event platform called Zoom Events. However, it was lacking support for the wide range of needs of a typical university. Zoom showcased the latest iteration by using it to drive the Zoomtopia virtual conference, demonstrating the addition of support for multiple breakout sessions following a keynote, a virtual lobby, customisable itineraries for attendees, and space for sponsor acknowledgement and interaction.

Based on early discussions with several universities, AARNet expects that the updated Zoom Events platform will be well received as the most easy-to-use Zoom-based virtual conference platform.

Video engagement centre

Zoom’s mission to transform the real-time communication experience was highlighted at Zoomtopia with the announcement of a video engagement centre. When delivered in full, such functionality has the potential to disrupt many legacy chat and telephone based call centres.

Whilst light on details in the presentation, Zoom described user definable workflows, routing, queuing, and connection with audio, video and screen sharing all possible from a single web link.

Geoff noted, “for the next generation of students for whom web communications are the norm and telephones a legacy, the video engagement centre will almost certainly create transformative opportunities in student engagement.” The initial release of the video engagement centre is expected in the first quarter of 2022.

Zoom Room smart gallery

Artificial intelligence continues its unnoticed advance into daily lives with its inclusion in Zoom Rooms for face detection, to bring each person individually into the one Zoom meeting using multiple cameras and detection algorithms to calculate your ‘best view’. Those sitting at the head of the table, furthest from camera, will no longer just be a few dots in a digital image whilst closer colleagues fill the full height of the edge the screen.

At a time when the hybrid workspace and flexible work will require most meetings to include both in-person and remote staff, smarter Zoom Rooms that increase the human connection between people will be well received.

Zoom whiteboards and in-meeting quizzing

Whilst arguably overdue from Zoom, the entire Zoom platform gets a significant collaboration update in coming months with much richer white boarding features, including the ability to create and edit enhanced digital whiteboards, prior, during and after a Zoom meeting. Combined with the November release of a range of new in-meeting Zoom quizzing tools, educators will benefit from these incremental improvements to help empower hybrid and virtual classrooms.

AARNet is Australia’s largest education-focused reseller of Zoom, providing licensing, advisory, and specialist education support services across the sector. At a time when Zoom use has never been higher in Australia, AARNet was pleased to see much of its advocacy and consolidated feedback from the Australian education sector clearly reflected in Zoom’s strategy and priorities for the coming year.

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