West Corp. and Dolby Laboratories are giving teleconferences and virtual meetings an audio upgrade.
Unified communications specialist West has teamed up with the iconic sound technology outfit to debut InterCall Reservationless-Plus with Dolby Voice today. It tackles many of the shortcomings of conventional VoIP (voice over IP) solutions that can often turn multiperson audio, video and web conferencing into a low-fidelity, ear-splitting experience.
Essentially, "people sound like they do when you meet them in real life" when participants join a teleconference held on the platform, Andrew Border, vice president of Dolby Communications Group, told eWEEK. Much of that has to do with Dolby's research on spatial hearing.
Customarily, when multiple attendees chime in during a virtual meeting, "all those multiple voices have been mixed into one audio stream and into one ear," explained Border. This often results in a garbled listening experience where speakers often compete to get heard, often at the expense of a listener's ear drums.
Underwhelming audio can crimp productivity, the companies assert.
Most organizations (82 percent) have had their workday affected by at least one audio conferencing issue, noted the companies, citing data from Wainhouse Research. Among the top annoyances are background noise (51 percent), audio clarity that falls short (44 percent) and the conversations that turn into a wall of indecipherable noise when multiple people speak at once (29 percent).
"Diminished quality is not only a top productivity killer, but it's also one of the main hurdles to VoIP adoption," said Rob Bellmar, executive vice president of business operations at West's Unified Communications Services unit, in a March 1 announcement. "Reservationless-Plus with Dolby Voice ensures end users benefit from the simplicity of VoIP conferencing and best-in-class sound quality."
Dolby's spatial hearing technology re-creates the so-called "cocktail party effect," a phenomenon in which listeners can pick out voices over the din of a noisy room by filtering out distracting noises. Similarly, Dolby Voice technology delivers a "full spatial audio scene" in which multiple talkers appear to be orderly arrayed in front of the listener for clearer, more natural group conversations.
Improved audio aside, the technology has another benefit. After a few moments, listeners "start to develop a subtle mental mind map of where the speakers are," said Border. This adds a more personal touch to the ideas and concepts discussed during a virtual gathering, ultimately improving engagement and reinforcing the information shared. The technology's noise suppression capabilities also enable smartphone and tablet users to participate in audio conferences without having to "ride that mute key" in a bid to block distracting noises during their travels.
The new Reservationless-Plus with Dolby Voice integrates with West's Unified Communications Services lineup, including the company's InterCall MobileMeet and Unified Meeting 5 offerings, and works across PCs and mobile devices. Clearer audio can also be experienced on partner solutions, including the popular Cisco WebEx platform, when an InterCall Reservationless-Plus connection is established.