Software

Cisco acquires BabbleLabs to enhance Webex’s speech application

In anticipation of a prolonged remote working setup, multinational technology company Cisco announced the immediate acquisition of BabbleLabs to accelerate developments in its video conferencing applications Webex.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to impose lockdowns in order to curb the spread of the virus. Organizations quickly adapted the work-from-home setup to ensure business continuity and used video conferencing apps for communications.

Cisco Webex is one of the preferred video conferencing solutions especially for corporate meetings and virtual media launches, among others. The acquisition of BabbleLabs is meant to enhance the speech technology muting unwanted background noise keeping meetings professional even if employees work from home.


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BabbleLabs described itself as a company that “revolutionizes human voice interaction with technology devices, enabling new kinds of voice applications and devices for our customers by applying new forms and combinations of neural networks, DSP and audio processing in software.” It also provides cloud API services and embedded software to serve a wide variety of human-machine environment applications in technology, entertainment, call centers, and video or audio production.

Algorithms

“BabbleLabs created machine learning algorithms that through extensive training of the model have been able to distinguish between a human voice and unwanted background noise,” explained Jeetu Patel, SVP and GM, Security and Applications Division at Cisco.

That is the distinguishing component needed for effective video conferencing applications. The idea is to bring sound-proof walls of board rooms into homes while employees are working.

Patel said BabbleLabs software will be immediately embedded into Webex as soon as possible rendering no interruption to current clients or subscribers. He also assured customers that “there will be no additional cost.”

“It is going to be one of those kinds of transparent services where you don’t really need to have some UI (user interface) treatment that would disrupt the applications,” he said.

Video captioning

Aside from improving speech or voice applications, Patel also announced enhancements on real-time video captioning and transcriptions. It will allow real-time data transcriptions using machine learning.

Patel also explained the environment optimization for Webex users that would address network connections issues. WebEx will compensate for the 50% packet loss so users “will not experience any human degradation of perception of sound or video.” Packet loss is when traveling data fail to reach their destination. In the context of video conference, is when users experience lags.

Cisco also added the digital whiteboard capability that would allow participants to write notes that can be used as a reference for subsequent meetings.

Patel said the enhancements in its video-conferencing application is to enable workers to focus on their jobs and lift the burden of intermittent conversations that could only add more stress amid a world that is dealing with an unseen enemy.

Patel took over Cisco’s Security and Applications Division in August 2020 after serving as Chief Product Officer and Chief Strategy Officer Box, a cloud content management firm.