Deep in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley you’ll find the Stanford Research Park; a sprawling campus that bills itself as “a community of and for people who seek to invent the future”. It’s here you’ll find HP’s headquarters, and Loretta Li-Sevilla, the company’s head of future of work, collaboration, and business incubation.

For more than seven years, Li-Sevilla and her team have been exploring what the future of work will look like and, using these insights, building the products that will power the working world yet to come.

Among these is the HP Presence portfolio, the company’s set of conferencing and collaboration solutions. Billed as “a more human collaboration solution”, HP Presence is an end-to-end collaboration solution that encompasses HP Presence Meeting Space solutions and technology enhanced by HP Presence – including laptops and artificial intelligence-assisted cameras. The aim? To make you feel like you’re “in the room from any room”.

But how was it developed? We caught up with Li-Sevilla to find out more …

The pandemic is said to have accelerated hybrid working trends by at least five years. Photograph: HP

“In HP, we have a focus on what we call ‘insights to innovation’,” she says. “We study people and observe how they work, where they work, and then understand the pain points that they go through … so when we think about the process, we really start from the people.”

For Presence, “the people” included anyone and everyone who might interact with the technology: from the people in the meeting room to their colleagues working remotely – whether at home or on the move – and then the IT and facilities teams whose job it is to keep the workplace running smoothly.

The research process was rigorous, with the team focusing on identifying and eradicating users’ “pain points” to create a system that was as seamless and stress-free as possible. “We looked at that entire journey to make sure that we had a good experience throughout,” Li-Sevilla says. “We wanted our designers to really understand the challenges, so we had them sit down with our HP IT and real estate teams – and we brought in customers as well.”

Real-world insights were key and Li-Sevilla says that some of her own experiences of video conferencing fed into the innovations. “I remember I would go into a meeting room with my PC and I used to carry dongles with all types of connections because I didn’t know what type of cable I’d need,” she says. “Another time, I actually flew out to Houston for a meeting because I didn’t want to feel left out because I was the one presenting. I didn’t want to be presenting to the executive team and not be able to see their expressions or not feel equal, as if in the room. And that’s what we were trying to bridge, that experience, so that I wouldn’t have to travel.”

The result is a remarkably intuitive system with thoughtful touches such as colour-coded cables and one-touch join, which means you don’t need to be an IT whizz to use it. “All of our components talk together. So when someone walks into a room, we have a proximity sensor in the centre of the room on the control panel; once it detects someone, it lights up and sends a signal to the camera to wake up,” Li-Sevilla says.

The major priority for Presence was ensuring that everyone could access a consistent, high-quality audio-visual experience – no matter where they are. “This is really foundational,” Li-Sevilla says. The result is standout features such as noise cancellation, room audio calibration with Bang & Olufsen technology, speaker tracking, and auto framing. “We have a lot of AI capabilities in Presence,” Li-Sevilla says. “For speaker tracking, our audio AI tracks who the active speaker is, and then our video AI actually moves with the speaker.”

However, what really sets Presence apart is the holistic nature of the design. “We were fortunate that we were able to look at it as an entire experiencing system, so we designed it all together,” Li-Sevilla says. “We didn’t just think about the room experience. We have the enhanced by HP Presence technology built into our premium PCs and displays, so you’ll have the same experience whether you’re in the meeting room or if you’re remote. No one else in the industry has an end-to-end collaboration story.”

While for many of us the move to hybrid working is both new and a direct result of the pandemic, for Li-Sevilla and her Silicon Valley colleagues it’s been a focus for the best part of a decade. “The pandemic just really accelerated what we saw in future work … at least five-plus years of acceleration,” she says. “We saw that this opportunity was coming in, and introduced HP Elite Slice [a PC-based conferencing tool] in 2018. And at the same time Microsoft and Zoom saw it as well, and we partnered with them to have Elite Slice for Microsoft Teams Rooms and Zoom Rooms.”

As for what’s next, Li-Sevilla is not only excited, but already leading the charge to get HP’s head office future ready. “I’m in the middle of the Palo Alto renovation right now,” she says. “All the offices are being redesigned to focus on building a sense of community and for collaboration.”

And this is what HP Presence is all about; enabling quality communication that’s fair and accessible. “Our goal is really to drive that engagement and connectedness across this future hybrid world,” Li-Sevilla says. “We want everybody to be a first-class citizen, no matter where they work.”

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