Feature Request: One-Button Conference Calls

I’ve decided to start a series of posts that I’ll call Feature Request. I’m going to gripe about things that bug me with existing devices, services, sites, life, etc. and also wonder aloud why certain features (or entire products) don’t exist. If anyone can point me to a product that solves my problem or knows about someone working on a solution to this problem, please let me know. This was partially inspired by Joshua Schachter’s rant about bad alarm clock UI. (Credit goes to Om for direction my attention to this.)

If you were to observe my daily activities, you might conclude that I am a professional emailer, phone caller and meeting attendee. Many meetings I attend virtually via conference call. Untold hours of productivity have been sapped by the idiotic machinations involved in setting up a conference call on a Polycom. Dial the number, wait for the annoying audio instructions, enter the conference ID incorrectly, hang up, dial again, enter the code properly. Are you the moderator? Enter the moderator password incorrectly. Lather, rinse, repeat. Oops, accidentally hung up the call reaching for the volume button on the Polycom. Lather, rinse, repeat. Shoot me.

I want to walk into a conference room, sit down, press a single button (heck, I’d settle for three or four) on the Polycom and be connected to my conference without having to listen to any voice-menus or enter any codes. One-button conferencing. (Obviously I also want the same functionality on my cell phone, office phone, directly from my laptop, etc). Who can give me this?

There are clearly many pieces that need to be put together to make this work. Maybe VOIP/Skype-enabled conferencing services and VOIP/Skype-aware Polycom phones? Skype can give me a four-user conference call, but I want the ability to have an unlimited number (within reason) of people come to the same “place” with no advance planning, but the current reservation-less conference call services are just too cumbersome and force everyone into lowest-common-denomintor touch-tone interfaces.

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  • How about a No Button conference call? We’ve been doing applications that use Speaker Verification technology and I’ve always thought it should work like this – “Thanks for calling the conference center. What’s your name?” I say “Terry Gold” and the system checks what I said against my unique voice print, determines that I do in fact have a conference call in progress and that I’m the moderator and sets everything up. No codes, no special commands and much better security. All I have to remember is the 800 number for the conference center. We’ve pitched this a couple of times but the conference companies so far are convinced that their customers prefer long strings of touch-tone digits.

  • Terry, great suggestion. If I put my conferencing service on autodial, that gets me to a one-button conference, at least for setting up a call. How good is speaker-verification technology over phone lines? Many false positives or negatives?