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Zoom adds virtual receptionist feature where remote workers can do ‘office’ tasks at home

When the pandemic forced employees to work from home, Zoom emerged as the go-to teleconferencing app.

Now as many are contemplating a return to their real-world offices, the company is updating its offerings to address a post-COVID future.

This week, Zoom unveiled Kiosk Mode, part of its Zoom Rooms program for physical conference rooms, which allows visitors to check in virtually with a online receptionist.

Other new Zoom Room features include air-quality monitoring, pairing with iOS and Android devices and the ability to count the number of people in a room in real-time.

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In Kiosk Mode, a visitor can check in with a receptionist who may be working from home but can still unlock doors and notify meeting participants 

To interact with Kiosk Mode, visitors tap the ‘start’ button on the touchscreen monitor to initiate a call with the receptionist, who can remotely unlock a door and notify meeting participants.

‘The receptionist doesn’t need to be in office,’ Harry Moseley, Zoom’s chief information officer, told CNBC. ‘They can be at their own home. They can be anywhere. They can actually be in a different country, and they can support multiple buildings.’

It’s not a cheap solution, as pricing for Zoom Rooms starts at $49 per month per room.

But even when the pandemic is over, there will be a demand for heightened health and safety protocols.

Using supported camera technology, Zoom Rooms allows for real-time headcounts in a conference room, ensuring social distancing protocols are being followed

Using supported camera technology, Zoom Rooms allows for real-time headcounts in a conference room, ensuring social distancing protocols are being followed

Kiosk Mode also lets a company reduce the number of receptionists physically in an office, Zoom’s chief information officer, Harry Moseley, told CNBC. 

And with supported camera technology, the remote worker can take real-time headcounts in a conference room, ensuring social distancing protocols are being followed.

Users can sync their Android and iOS devices and instantly have access to all Zoom Room audio, video, and participant controls, so they don’t have to touch a shared screen.

Zoom's new Neat Bar Pro appliance will allow you to monitor air quality, humidity and levels of carbon dioxide and 'volatile organic compounds' in a conference room

Zoom’s new Neat Bar Pro appliance will allow you to monitor air quality, humidity and levels of carbon dioxide and ‘volatile organic compounds’ in a conference room

After a February 11 upgrade, Zoom’s new Neat Bar Pro appliance will allow you to monitor air quality, humidity and carbon dioxide levels in a room.

It’ll even check for ‘volatile organic compounds,’  chemicals commonly found in the air — like benzene, formaldehyde and methylene chloride — that can contribute to eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea and other effects.

‘You can view this environmental data on the Zoom dashboard, on the Zoom Rooms Controller, and on the Scheduling Display for real-time feedback on the safety of your meeting rooms,’ the company said. 

Users can sync their Android and iOS devices and instantly have access to all Zoom Room audio, video, and participant controls, so they don't have to touch a shared screen

Users can sync their Android and iOS devices and instantly have access to all Zoom Room audio, video, and participant controls, so they don’t have to touch a shared screen 

Oded Gal, Zoom’s chief product officer, said keeping employees ‘safe, connected, and productive’ was the company’s top priority.

Zoom announced other enhancements it has planned for Zoom Rooms, including increased voice-command controls.

It will be adding Amazon’s Alexa for Business service,  letting staffers hop on a call simply by saying, ‘Alexa, join my meeting.’      

Over 80 percent of employees who are currently remote say they want to continue that way at least half of the time even once offices reopen, according to Wainhouse Research.

Some new features address that reality, including the ability to save whiteboards so they can be sent via email or group chat. 

‘As hybrid teams return to the office, workspace needs will be different,’ Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said in a blog post on Wednesday.

‘Flexible strategies like hot desking, where employees don’t have an assigned workstation, might be more cost-effective as teams stagger in-office schedules and as your workplace teams navigate food, safety, and long-term space considerations.

‘At the same time, employees will need interactive spaces designed for group work and deep thinking.’

‘We need to be prepared to support all of these constructs, which are simultaneously flexible and highly customized, to enable the modern workforce.’


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