Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with my Poly colleagues Casey King and Tim Root for an episode of AVNationTV’s Connected! that discussed the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The three of us weren’t even teenagers yet when the historic Apollo 11 mission landed the first humans on the moon and brought them safely home, but it had a tremendous impact on all of us.
When Casey, Tim and I get together, it’s definitely a geek-fest. Between the three of us, we’ve worked in the engineering departments of such firms as Apple, AMD, Lifesize, Magic Leap, Huddly, Picture Tel, Polycom, Vgo, Revolabs / Yamaha, FNN, Bloomberg, NYU, and of course now Poly. We’re definitely the guys that would tell you how to build a watch if you asked us what time it was, the ones that knew how to make our VCR clock stop flashing, and people that still receive the ‘tech support’ calls from friends and family as soon as anything goes wrong. A great deal of that engineering approach and personality comes from growing up in the era of space travel. Unlike our parents, we were born into a world where something impossible just meant no one had successfully done it yet – not that it couldn’t be done.
When Neil Armstrong put mankind’s first footprint on the moon – and told us about it on his “Snoopy cap” embedded Plantronics MS-50 headset – he didn’t take credit for it as an individual achievement. His words told us it was only one small step for him, but a giant leap for mankind. He was correct of course. All giant leaps in technology and achievement come to us as a series of small steps, each building on the last one…to go just that much further than was achieved before. That headset itself was just another result of a series of small steps, starting with ’Pacific Plantronics’ creating a better aviation headset, to an astronaut (Wally Schirra) noticing it and asking for a space version, to engineers making that headset a reality.
Casey, Tim and I chatted about how our entire approach to engineering came from the NASA approach to reaching the moon. How each project is separated into its component ‘small steps’ and each one of those is tackled before we move on to the next.
It is the same approach that we use to this day with the development of collaboration technologies. For example, Poly’s new 4K Eagle Eye Cube wasn’t just invented out of thin air. It is the giant leap ahead that came from one of the first commercially viable videoconferencing systems (the Picture-Tel Concorde), then the first camera in history that could track a room’s active speaker and automatically frame a shot of just him or her (the Polycom Eagle Eye Director), then the push to remove the mechanical PTZ from the process. It is one of many cameras on the market nowadays that can perform speaker tracking and automatic framing, but unlike most of them it has the intelligence built-in. It doesn’t require extra software running on a connected PC.
Or, for another example, take a look at the Polycom Studio huddle-room solution. It doesn’t just blow-away the competition in the camera / speakerbar space just because we wanted it to. It incorporates Polycom’s awesome NoiseBlock and Acoustic Fence technologies – innovations that were developed years earlier to prevent extraneous noise (typing, paper shuffling, etc.) and open office sounds from distracting a meeting’s participants. Each of these were a small step towards creating the best device in its class on the market, as shown by winning the “best communications / collaboration device” designation at Enterprise Connect.
At Poly we will continue to stack-up these small steps as we improve our products and bring new offerings to the market. Each one will surely not rival the historic journey to the moon, but put enough of them together and we may just surprise you at how quickly we rocket past the competition in the collaboration space.
David Danto is Director of UC Strategy and Research at Poly.
Casey King is CTO at Poly.
Tim Root is VP of Products at Poly.