Polycom under siege

The triangular Polycom conference phone is a familiar device; in many companies there is one in every conference room. It is so familiar that few give thought to its miraculous ability to transmit high quality sound from one roomful of jabbering humans to another. In fact, this involves some pretty sophisticated technology for echo cancellation and noise filtering; to quote the Polycom site, “Automatic Gain Control intelligently adjusts the microphone sensitivity based on where participants are seated in the conference room”!

Polycom conference telephone

Image: Wikipedia, by Sweetness46, under Creative Commons license

A telephony engineer I once met explained to me that the microphones at the three ends of the Polycom are exquisitely optimized so the sound enters them just right, glancing off the table surface at the optimal angle, to achieve the best possible sound quality. Isn’t that smart design?

So what do we do, then? Why, we put the poor thing at the center of a round conference table and surround it with an impregnable wall of Notebook screens, as all attendees read their email during the meeting. There goes the exquisite design, the adjustment based on where participants are seated, the echo processing…

One can almost imagine a future generation of phones that can raise themselves on a robotic stalk to peer above the notebooks (OK, so this is more like an R2D2 kind of response than a likely reality). But in fact, I once visited a company where they mounted the Polycom on top of a 12 inch pole in the center of the table. It looked weird, but I’m sure it sounded great…

2 Responses to “Polycom under siege”


  1. 1 Jeffrey Pearl

    If you thought this Polycom was/is great, you have to hear the new HD version!

  1. 1 IORG Forum Blog » Blog Archive » Email and the Polycom…

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