Building tools for teams: how Huddly engineers innovation
“Time is a finite resource, and when tiresome manual processes are automated with AI, that gives you more freedom to choose where you pay your attention. In the meeting space, Huddly’s AI features give you the freedom to collaborate and become more productive than ever before. That is the future we see for our users.”Jonas Rinde, Huddly CEO
Teams that are spread across different geographical locations are on the rise, with more and more companies choosing to adopt this structure for their workforce. These distributed teams face unique challenges when it comes to collaborating and sharing information. At Huddly, we are helping to build a work environment where these teams can communicate and collaborate freely, and content can be shared quickly, all without any of the annoyances common to current meeting room technology. Our tools are a natural extension of the collaboration flow and don’t get in the way of a team’s efficiency.
At Huddly, we build tools for teams – powerful products and features that use AI to enable team collaboration and make people’s workday easier.
In this article, the first in a series, we take a closer look at how our R&D department brings that vision to workplaces around the world. We asked our VP Engineering, industry veteran and resident jazz maestro Vegard Hammer to tell us more about why our products and the team are best positioned to deliver industry-leading tools, both today and in the years to come.
Cutting-edge solutions for modern teams
“For me, leading the Huddly R&D team is much more than just my job. I have a great passion for what we do here and it’s a very inspiring place to come to work every day. But then, there’s a lot to be passionate about – when it comes to technology, Huddly is breaking new ground. Nobody else is doing what we do. By providing intelligence and high-quality image sensoring at the edge, we are able to provide a cognitive understanding of collaboration spaces that enables Huddly’s smart automated Genius features and advanced meeting room analytics.
“Our AI-powered Huddly IQ camera can see, understand and respond to its environment. As a first step, we have trained it to be cognitively aware of the people in the room, but that’s only the beginning. The next step is for Huddly IQ to have an intelligent understanding of content within the meeting space, and use it to automate decisions that will deliver an even more helpful collaboration experience.
“In the past, this sort of technology was largely reserved for board meeting rooms and C-level executives due to high prices. But Huddly is changing that. Our technology is extremely high quality, yet affordable at scale, making it available to the people who need it most: distributed teams around the world.
The power of being software-defined
“The value of our products is not defined by the hardware, but rather by the software, which we regularly update with new features, as well as improvements. To help us achieve this, we’ve consciously built a large software team, which is not something you usually see in the makeup of traditional video conferencing camera manufacturers. Being software-defined makes us agile and responsive, and gives our customers and partners more value from the hardware they have invested in.
“This is actually one of the main reasons why we have been able to attract forward-looking partners such as Google, Crestron and Zoom. They are facing the same challenges – to compete, they need the ability to respond to changing user demands and move quickly. Huddly technology helps them do that: they are able to provide us with feedback and then have the modification within our products in a month or two via a software update. In contrast, traditional manufacturers have to roll out new hardware to address the same kind of feedback, at a high cost and usually with a turnaround of six months to a year at best.
“This helps us be reactive to customer feedback in a way that no other company in the market can. A meaningful adjustment to the Huddly user experience is only a software release away. We can even develop tailor-made solutions to address a problem in a particular industry, all through the power of software, with no need for expensive new hardware.
“We are committed to releasing new software as often as we can and we’re able to do this because our software is continuously and automatically verified through our Continuous Integration lab. More information about Huddly CI can be found in this great article by our fabulous QA Engineer Lexu Qi.
Access to state-of-the-art hardware
“Working with and developing state-of-the-art technology is not only central to what we do – it’s essential.
“Thanks to our close relationship with Intel (and with Movidius prior to their acquisition), Huddly IQ was the first product in the industry to feature an Intel Myriad X VPU, the first of its class to feature a Neural Compute Engine. It’s important to say that this is not a one-way relationship. We worked closely with Intel to validate the VPU before it hit the market and we continue to provide regular feedback, allowing us to play a part in giving back and helping to shape the technology.
“Access to the latest technology is fundamental to differentiating our product in a market with many players, but it also helps us attract the best engineering talent. The Huddly R&D team is made up of world-class engineers in many fields including electronics, industrial design, platform software, image pipeline, AI and front-end. Working together, we’re able to create truly integrated products where the intention of the product is reflected in all engineering layers.
Innovation comes from creative freedom
“Often, when a business gets to a certain level, there is a focus from executives on increasing efficiency and meeting customer needs that have already been identified. But from our perspective, it doesn’t make sense to hire the kind of engineering team we have unless we give them the freedom to innovate. That’s why Huddly R&D devotes significant time to exploring new technology. Two or three times a year, the team is given the freedom to spend a week prototyping a pet project. These “playtime” weeks always end with an exciting “Demo Friday”, where the different groups get the chance to show off what they have accomplished. More than once we’ve seen that results from “playtimes” have become differentiating features in our intelligent camera.
“For example, the latest improvement to our intelligent Huddly IQ camera – the new smooth Genius Framing – came out of one of these creative weeks. We found an easy way to make adjustments to Pan/Tilt/Zoom parameters along a shaped curve over time. This enabled us to create a fluid zooming experience that, until now, has only been available for expensive and complex mechanical PTZ cameras.
Inspiring creativity in others
“But creativity is not just a driver for innovation within Huddly. We recognise that our technology can inspire creativity in the engineering teams of our partners and other companies with ambitions to innovate new smart meeting room solutions. In response to this, we designed a software development kit, the Huddly SDK, which is now publicly available at developer.huddly.com. Its purpose is to give our users with aspirations of building their own applications an easy way of integrating the Huddly AI platform, powered by the Huddly IQ.
“The combination of our innovative, creative engineering culture; powerful, state-of-the-art technology; and a passionate understanding of premium user experience, enables Huddly to create tools for teams in ways that no other company can. It’s a real privilege to be leading Huddly R&D and I’m looking forward to showing the world what we’re capable of in the months and years to come.”
We’re getting ready to reveal a lot of exciting things at InfoComm 2019. Come find Huddly at booth #4087, or follow us on social media!