Virtual workshops using Surface Hub

This week I got to use some cool technology which really impressed me. Imagine if the National Emergency Coordination Committee could use this technology to collaborate on the response to natural disasters like Ex-Hurricane Ophelia which hit Ireland this week?

Ok, I work for a tech company who makes cool stuff like Xbox, Windows, Azure, Office, Skype. Yet I’d never used Surface Hub. These are large interactive TV screens which allow a team to collaborate across the globe. In the old world, we’d all get on a plane, fly 10 hours to Seattle, meet in a conference room for 3-4 days and fly home. This time we did it over the internet using the power of technology and the cloud to communicate.

How did it work?

15 people working in Seattle, Dublin and Hyderabad got together for 3 days to do a workshop for a project we’re working on. It was morning time in the US, evening time in Dublin and night time in India. We met for 4 hours each day. Most of us got into conference rooms in Dublin & Redmond, which others joined over the phone from home.

Why was it cool?

• The Surface Hub screen is huge – 84 inches! It was really easy to read the presentation and also see the others in the room in Redmond.
• The video meant we could see people rather than guess voices, plus you get a sense of the mood/vibe in the room. It brought us closer, rather than this barrier of a static profile pic.
• Being able to share files via Sharepoint was nice and we could update the OneNote together in real time with actions & notes.
Attention spans & energy levels we good, as we kept it to 4 hours and had breaks. If it was in person, we’d probably meet for 8 hours and by the afternoon our brains would be toast.
• The virtual whiteboard was nifty – you use a magic pen to write/draw on the screen and everyone can see it instantly.
• You can record the whole workshop using Skype, so people who missed it can catch up after. Handy for the Indian team who were off celebrating Diwali.
• I liked working late – we worked 6pm to 10pm but I had the flexibility to take the mornings off and do stuff at home, so got out for a run in the daylight.

What wasn’t so cool?

• Meeting people face to face still beats remote working. Video does help bridge the gap but building relationships is also done over lunch and outside the formal meeting.
• The video didn’t work in Redmond 2 days, which made it harder to interact. It should be easy and just instant without technical knowledge required.
• Most people don’t like using video when on a Skype call. I find that weird, as it really does help and if we’re meeting face to face I can see you.

Find out more

Check out the Microsoft Surface Hub website for more information. I really like the videos and case studies – see how lots of people are using Surface Hub – medical students, schools, designers, architects, musicians.



One thought on “Virtual workshops using Surface Hub

  1. Hi David,
    great article about the Surface Hub and virtual workshops. We also use the Hub for our virtual workshops. We did a short video about how we use it for business model canvas workshop with our App CollaBoard.

    Would be more than happy to exchange experience on using the Surface Hub for virtual workshops.

    Kind regards


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