Vobi Wants to Update Conference Calls for Mobile Workers

Mobile devices and Wi-Fi mean that we really can work anywhere. But we’re still pulled into an office setting when it comes to conference calls and other meetings with colleagues.

Austin, TX-based Vobi says its cloud-based technology, which is being released today, can set those gatherings free. Think of it as the next generation conference call, says Wes Cole, Vobi’s CEO. “We’re moving video conferencing from a room-based interaction to a virtual collaboration,” he says.

Users plug their mobile number into a web browser to get access to the Vobi dashboard where subscribers can initiate what the company calls a “collaboration” and invitees can join in.

A screen pops up, most of which is dedicated to material related to the reason for the meeting, say, a PowerPoint presentation. (That document is not static; each participant can scroll through it on their own.) Along the bottom are small video screens of each person participating in the meeting, which looks and feels like a Skype call. On the left-hand side is a chat function with conversation bubbles among the participants. (This could come in handy if you’re on a plane and want to avoid annoying your neighbors with work talk.)

But perhaps the most useful feature on Vobi is the ability to switch devices—laptop to tablet to smartphone and back—during a conversation without officially logging out of the device you are currently using. “People want to work how they want to work,” Cole says. “We help them do that.”

During a recent demonstration, Andy Abramson, an outside spokesman for the company, stepped out of his home office in San Diego and walked along the beach behind it. The call was transferred without interruption from his laptop to his smartphone and we continued the conversation unabated even as he switched devices.

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