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Mike me up, Scotty!
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Any organization that is composed of people who live and work great distances from each other can generate many conference calls. While we now have conference phones that can be used in rooms where a group of participants has gathered, the microphone technology associated with these phones is still in the tin-cans-and-a-string era. The options are few.

You can place wired mikes along the table, but since people tend not to remain hunched over the table like so Quasimodos, this is ineffective and the remote participants are left with an audio experience that is akin to listening to a conversation on a fast food restaurant’s drive thru speaker system.

If one person is going to be presenting for long periods, you can wire them up with a lapel mike , but the associated power-pack is bulky and the mike assumes the presence of a lapel or an equivalent clippage spot, which is frequently unavailable.

In large rooms there may be wired mikes at each seat, but they have to be turned off when not in direct use because they pick up so much background noise (not to mention the confidential comments that participants make to each other about how Fred is looking particularly jaundiced today or that Jane should really think about not wearing a black bra under that pink top).

So where is all this going, you may ask? Better yet, what generated this specific work-related dyspepsia? Well, watching “How William Shatner Changed the World”, of course! I caught the last hour of this very funny documentary on the Discovery Channel over the weekend, and as I was sitting in a lengthy meeting this week, hearing for the 147th time, “Could you get closer to the microphone, please?” from an aggrieved remote meeting participant, I realized that we have not yet come quite far enough in our evolution toward Star Trek-like accessories. Yes, we have Blackberries and iPods and Treos and garage door openers built into our cars, but we still don’t have a microphone system that will cover an entire conference room! We need stick-on mikes like the communicator brooches sported by the Star Trek:Next Generation crew. (The mere fact that these are for sale on eBay inspires a whole separate topic on the decline of civilization, but I’ll save that for another day.)

I’ll leave it to the American Inventor contestants to fill in the actual innovation details…

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