Voxeet Expands Network, Adds Collaboration Functions

Voxeet is one of those applications that almost certainly will go viral once it gets a few users to tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on.

Voxeet, a startup whose mission is to eradicate conference calls as we know them and replace them with clear, clean voice transmissions on any device, is expanding its network globally.

The Sausalito, Calif.-based company, which on April 6 relaunched v4.0 of its free-to-use cloud app, told eWEEK that it turned on its international service the same day, utilizing data centers in Europe and Asia-Pacific in addition to its main center in Virginia.

The privately-held company also revealed that it has secured $1.5 million in new venture funding.

Voxeet is one of those applications that almost certainly will go viral once it gets a few users to tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on. It costs nothing to use, yet it bumps up the quality of conference conversations to 3D surround-sound-type quality. Who wouldn't want a much higher-quality conference call experience in any type of situation?

Conventional Conference Calls Have Had Quality Problems

Everybody who's ever had to participate in a conference call knows this is true: These unavoidable staples of business communications are generally terrible in quality.

Here's why: When participants use the speaker function, only one person can talk at a time, to the exclusion of all others; lots of ideas go unheard or unrecognized as a result. Due to spotty telecom and Internet connections, participants often weave in and out of conversations.

People who forget to mute their phones when dogs are barking or traffic is roaring in the background cause ire among other people on the line. God help everybody when there are more than about five people on the line.

These problems have been harassing conference call users for years, yet little has been done to improve this type of service. And with videoconferencing far from perfect, and still comprising only a small portion of the market, the need for good, HD-quality Web-based concalls is clearly there.

Conference Call Business Has Needed a Disruptor

Sometimes it takes a completely new player in the field to shake things up. This is where Voxeet has stepped in to move the standards bar way up. The 4-year-old company has come up with a new, free of charge (at least at this time, anyway) voice over IP (VOIP) conference app that is everything a concall is supposed to be: easy to install, easy to use, and can be used on laptops or mobile devices—and switched in midstream from one to another, if needed.

"We've designed and built it with high-definition sound quality—like the best video games," CEO and co-founder Stephane Giraudie told eWEEK. "This wasn't easy."

Voxeet is powered by TrueVoice 3D surround sound and backed by collaboration tools.

New Collaboration Features

Voxeet 4.0's new collaboration features allow users to:

--record and relive conversations: With meeting replay in real-time, users can review and share calls as they happen as well as capture the content of each call with TrueVoice quality. The meeting can then become a point of reference for future meetings and internal conversations.

--share and present files and photos: Share information with team members via file and photo sharing and presentation along with other collaboration capabilities.

--flexible file sharing: Share a wide range of files on mobile devices from anywhere on the desktop, Web or in the cloud. Being able to share files from wherever they are stored, from Drobox to Box, gives users a high degree of versatility and flexibility.

--create channels: Easily categorize saved conversations and associated interactions such as files, a chat thread, photos, voice messages and conference call history. Name a current or future conversation as belonging to a specific channel and they are automatically categorized and tagged as belonging to that channel.

--share information during and after a call: Share files to present information during a call as well as a recording of the call via the conference-call summary email.

The new collaboration features are now available free to users. Voxeet is working on Voxeet Pro version, which will become available on a subscription basis soon.

Newcomer in a Well-Established Market Field

Voxeet is a newcomer in a well-established crowd of providers that includes Cisco Systems (Webex), Citrix (GotoMeeting), Adobe, Microsoft, FreeConferenceCall.com, and many others.

eWEEK has conducted a couple of test conferences with Giraudie. The result was astonishing, and eWEEK doesn't say that lightly.

Participants can sign into the app using their Google+ identity or an email address; only three clicks are required to get it installed and running. Voxeet's app then sets up the concall as if all the participants are seated around a table. In fact, the app shows a table-like image with the avatar (from Google+) of each participant at different locations at the table. Each participant speaks from a different direction, as if he or she was in the room with you. When one of the users clicks on and moves an avatar, the sound moves with the avatar to another speaker.

Voice-over problems are nonexistent. Participants can talk at will and not cut off anybody else, unlike the walkie-talkie experience of most others. There also was no static on the line. This is definitely not your father's concall app.

App Built on Google WebRTC Codec

The app is built around the new WebRTC audio codec, which Google released to open source in May 2011. WebRTC (Web real-time communication) is an API definition drafted by the World Wide Web Consortium that supports browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat and P2P file sharing without plug-ins. Google has about 50 full-time engineers working on improving the codec on a daily basis, Giraudie said.

WebRTC is supported in the following browsers: Desktop: Microsoft Edge 21, Google Chrome 23, Mozilla Firefox 22, Opera 18. Android: Google Chrome 28, Mozilla Firefox 24, Opera Mobile 12; Chrome OS; Firefox OS; iOS Browser; Blackberry 10 Browser.

The clear-as-a-bell quality of voice transmissions using this new codec is astounding.

Participants can join by simply clicking on the invitation link as guests.

Users Can Transfer Devices in Midstream

Another attribute is that users can easily transfer the in-session concall from a laptop to a mobile phone or tablet without skipping a beat.

The company is aiming at the prosumer and small-business markets, Giraudie said.

Apart from the freemium version, Voxeet will need to make some money, and it will do that by the traditional enterprise method: adding more premium services as time goes on.

You can download the app free of charge here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...