Settling in to Dolby’s cozy cinema on the ground floor of its Manhattan headquarters for an afternoon of audio tech sessions and demos, I hardly expected to happen upon the latest advancement in unified communications.
Yet there I was, surrounded by consumer press of all stripes, eager to test out the latest mobile audio, glassesless 3D video, and other new audio and video technologies when we were strangely huddled into a small conference room. I took a seat in front of a laptop and skeptically snapped on a headset only to be completely blown away by the crisp clarity and natural conversation demo’d.
Anyone who has ever engaged in a business conference call using voice over IP knows firsthand how impossible it is to naturally interact with the other participants. There are varying audio delays, cutting in to add conversational feedback is often confusing, and certainly awkward and cumbersome. Personally, I always make a point to speak as little as possible on VOIP conference calls due to these technical challenges. This completely contradicts my behavior during an in-person meeting where I make a concerted effort to contribute ideas and feedback to the group.
Now, audio conferencing is hardly an exciting technology for most people, but the Dolby Voice demo practically had my jaw gaping open; I was so impressed at how tremendous an improvement it was over traditional VOIP audio conferencing solutions.
Dolby Voice is expected to come to market late this summer, delivered as software as a service (SaaS) by Dolby partner BT Conferencing. The two have been working on the solution for a year and a half, so this is far from a half-baked idea to latch onto a growing business market.
BT Conferencing, a subsidiary of British Telecom, will offer the service as an add-on to its BT MeetMe service, as BT MeetMe with Dolby Voice.
Dolby Voice functions by creating a spatial audio scene where meeting participants can converse dynamically, the company says. The effect is to create an impression that sound is coming from unique points in space, as they do in reality, allowing participants to easily recognize who is speaking and understand what they’re saying. In addition, background noise is suppressed, so volume levels are consistent.
Dolby Voice supports G.711 and G.722 codecs for traditional telephony participants and provides service-provider scale with commercial, off-the-shelf hardware. Using open APIs for integration with service provider architectures, Dolby Voice supports Microsoft, Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android systems. The technology is designed to work seamlessly even in unmanaged networks over public internet.
While it might seem strange for Dolby to jump into unified communications with its deep roots in the broadcast and film production industries, the audio innovator’s background in psychoacoustics and signal processing actually makes it a natural fit.