This idea makes me think: okay, works fine as long as we’re not more than two or maybe three people. But the technology guy in me thinks: the main problem is obviously acoustics; not everyone can hear everyone else while walking in a larger group. So shouldn’t it be easy to use some devices (like our phones with a headset) to create an audio link between all participants (basically like a conference call)? A kind of walking, talking conference call.
Well, actually, although using our phones for this would be convenient, but there’s a potential problem: since they are digital devices, the audio needs to be processed twice: from analogue sound waves to the famous “zeros and ones” on the sender’s phone and then back again to sound waves on the receiving phone. The signal processing causes a delay, also referred to as latency. The guys from CrowdMics told me that it took them about a year to make the processing effective enough to reduce the delay in their app far enough to make the audio-experience acceptable for the speaker (if the delay is to long, and the speakers voice is amplified over a Loudspeaker, the speaker hears him or herself). But so far it only works on iOS devices because Android is less optimized for audio processing (that was in early 2016 though, maybe it works now?).
Regardless: at our conference walk, we don’t have feedback through the loudspeaker like they have at conferences where CrowdMics are used. We have our headset in our ears, we you would only need to make sure that the speaker doesn’t hear his or her own audio and then, my hunch is, that a (very) few hundred milliseconds latency won’t matter (though it might if people can hear the speaker both on the phone and through the air.
The other challenge for the walking virtual meeting is to keep the communication local so that it works without an internet connection. I suppose the easiest would be to bring a portable computer that acts both as a wifi access point and a server for the mobile app. This could be done today, as the technology already exists for free. Take for instance a mumble server in combination with a mumble mobile app (Plumble for Android, Mumblefy for iOS).
To try this, you need of course a bunch of technophiles who are willing to try out these kinds of things. And you need a meeting agenda that can be handled while walking and where participants don’t need to take a lot of notes. I’m not sure what I will meet those conditions, but if you do, please share your experiences here.
I’d be very curious to hear how it worked, both technically and in terms of the meeting itself.