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The rise of AI speech enhancement & better team collaboration

Team collaboration in the age of AI

With COVID-19 driving work from home scenarios now and hybrid work environments into the foreseeable future, organizations are more dependent than ever on video conferencing with excellent audio quality to foster team collaboration.

However, even 145 years after the invention of the telephone, we face hurdles with speech quality and understanding amid disruptive background noise. Using conference calling and video conferencing technology only makes the problem worse, as we now contend with noise from multiple participants in multiple environments. If you have 12 people with barking dogs, yelling kids and loud traffic, you can bet it will inhibit effective team collaboration.

Fortunately, recent developments in deep learning neural network algorithms have dramatically improved the ability to enhance speech by separating noise in communications. But when it comes to integrating speech enhancement solutions into video conferencing technology, all algorithms aren’t created equal.

The deep learning revolution

Audio engineers have made slow but steady progress over the decades to develop noise reduction algorithms focused on fixing the easiest part of the noise problem. They reduced certain background noises like the low, steady hum from fans and air conditioners – and ate away at the speech signal in the process.

It wasn’t until the rise of deep learning methods over the past few years that speech scientists gained a potent new tool to handle noise in live speech. Today, speech clarity and noise reduction are not just incrementally better than prior methods, they are dramatically better.

A graph of 40 years of noise reduction methods

Neural networks offer a powerful new methodology for scrubbing, deconstructing, manipulating, resynthesizing and analyzing real-time speech streams. A small number of organizations are harnessing this power to offer credible noise reduction and speech enhancement in video conferencing technology applications. But most only focus on obvious impairments like background noise.

There are other speech challenges that reduce comprehension and promote cognitive load, or audio overstimulation. These include reverberation, network latency that leads to discontinuities in speech streams, and bandwidth compression issues that remove higher sibilant sounds like “ess,” and “zee.” Fixing these corrupted sections of speech is crucial in achieving effective team collaboration over video conferencing technology.

Noise Reduction – and a Whole Lot More – are now Part of Webex Meetings starting with the October update. With the acquisition of BabbleLabs, Cisco collaboration solutions have integrated best-in-class deep learning and speech science software that addresses the full range of video conferencing technology audio challenges. Our algorithms go beyond just eliminating noise that will prevent a participant’s dog from having a say in the conference call. They produce a clear speech experience with less feedback that improves people’s ability to listen, understand and perceive nuances.

Webex speech enhancement, also available with the October update of Webex Meetings, provides users an unapparelled comprehension rate with speech quality that is up to 10,000 times better (up to 40dB noise reduction). And it does so using minimal compute power. Our low latency solution has a tiny footprint designed to run on phones, laptops and room devices, as well as in the cloud environment.

While we believe we have the best speech enhancement technology on the market, we won’t stop there. We will continue to use deep learning advancements to enhance our speech technology with the goal of helping organizations achieve better team collaboration through their video conferencing technology.

AI-enabled noise removal and speech enhancement are currently available in Webex Meetings and on Webex Rooms devices including the Webex Desk Pro, Webex Board Series and Webex Room Series.

Sign up for a Webex free trial and enable a better team collaboration and video conferencing technology experience today.

About the author

Chris Rowen

Cisco VP, Engineering, Voice Technology

Chris is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and technologist known for his groundbreaking work developing RISC microprocessors, domain-specific architectures and deep learning-based speech software.

Before joining Cisco, he was the cofounder and CEO of speech science technology company BabbleLabs, which was acquired by Cisco in 2020. Prior to that, he founded the processor licensing company, Tensilica, and led it as CEO before it was sold to Cadence in 2013.

Chris holds greater than 40 US and international patents, an MSEE and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford and a BA in physics from Harvard. He is an IEEE Fellow.

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Introducing the All New Webex

What’s new in Webex: December 2020

Webex One blog series

Webex Meetings integrations let you work and play from wherever you are

Still need help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

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Webex Teams Whiteboarding
5 tips for collaborating on a document in Webex messaging

In my last blog, I looked at how you can use modern team messaging platforms to stay in touch with colleagues and external parties in the new remote workplace. This month I wanted to take things one step further and look into how else Webex is taking the pain out of how we work together on documents.

Business never stops, especially for those of us in a geographically dispersed, cross-functional workplace. When working on a shared document we need to be sure we always have the latest version, that we have instant access regardless of the time, that multiple people can work on a document at the same time and all with the peace of mind that our information is secure. And we want to be able to access that document right from where we are interacting with project team members in virtual workspaces – with messaging and chat, meetings and 1:1 calls.

Webex has you covered! So, let’s look at how Webex makes collaborating on a document effortless:

1) Making file sharing easy and organized

Ever tried to share a large file via email, only to receive the ‘failure to send’ notification? Well with Webex, you can share documents, videos, images and really anything you need to work on with your team in 1:1 chats and group spaces. All shared items in a space are conveniently stored in the ‘Content’ section under ‘Files’. And, to make things even easier, you can use search to find any file shared in the app, as well as people, messages and spaces.

File upload screen graphic

2) Collaborate on live documents straight from Webex

Enterprise content management (ECM) is undoubtably one of the most useful collaboration features within Webex. The Webex open platform enables you to integrate your SharePoint or OneDrive account to your app. This allows you to share and documents stored within SharePoint or OneDrive directly to a 1:1 chat or group space.  Better still, you and your team can work on these files simultaneously without ever leaving the app and watch edits be updated live. All edits are automatically saved – preventing the risk of data loss. Webex supports a number of the leading ECM providers including Box, Google and Dropbox.

3) Selected screen share

We can all be guilty of having far too many screens open at once, and all know the fear of having to share your screen during a call and praying that you share the right one. Webex Teams removes this fear. With selected screen share, you can specify which screen you want to share from the offset – keeping your other work confidential and avoiding any accidental security risks (perfect for hiding your online shopping basket). Even if you opened another app while sharing your selected screen, have no fear, as the participants viewing would see nothing except the app you chose to share. You can easily change which screen you are showing by clicking on the share button again.

With multiple screen view, you can share your screen and still see the meeting participants. This keeps your team focused and increases engagement.

4) Visually express your ideas with a Whiteboard

Probably my personal favourite feature within Webex is whiteboarding. We all know that great ideas happen when we work together and whiteboards on Webex Teams provide the perfect platform to bring visual aspect to brainstorming activities.

Start a whiteboard in a 1:1 chat or group space while on a call or offline. As you are working, the whiteboard automatically saves in your space and can be accessed later to pick up where you left off. Each person in the group can contribute to the whiteboard simultaneously, creating a true interactive experience – as though you were all in the same room.

whiteboarding screend

5) Webex Pollbot

Lastly, let’s talk about Webex Pollbot. Webex Teams is a great platform for groups to share ideas and opinions when collaborating on a document. But what happens when you can’t come to an agreement. This can lead to major delays and impacts to workflows. Luckily Webex introduced Pollbot.

Pollbot can add a poll to any of your existing group spaces, or you can interact with Pollbot in a 1:1 to generate an independent poll. Simply add questions, set a time to expire, and see results in real time even before the poll ends. Easily get a group decision on that blog title, website graphic or even what to order for lunch. To learn more about Integrations and bot click here.

Webex Pollbot

If you haven’t used Webex Teams yet, you may already be entitled to it if you have a current Webex subscription or a Cisco Collaboration Flex Plan. Alternatively, you can download Webex Teams for free.

See how you can make teamwork your best work

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5 tips for connecting with remote colleagues 

Cisco Webex and Microsoft Azure Active Directory – better together

Your launch to collaborate! The new Webex App Header is here

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What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

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Webex Teams and team space
5 tips for connecting with remote colleagues

Webex Teams for remote team collaboration

With a massive shift towards remote working, we are relying more than ever on team collaboration apps to maintain real-time, business normality. Virtual workspaces have become the new water cooler and video meetings have become the new board room.

Face-to-face meetings over video help to overcome distance barriers by enabling check-ins with teammates and colleagues to push a project forward, or even just to check-in and see.

But how else is the Webex platform helping teams stay more connected with the people and projects that matter most?  Webex Team messaging is a perfect accompaniment to virtual meetings and in this blog, I’m going to share 5 tips for how you can use this modern team messaging platform to stay in touch.

Top 5 features for in Webex Teams

So, whether you are new to team collaboration apps or a veteran, here are our top 5 features you need to know about:

  1. Signal your presence

My first tip is, make sure people know you are available.  Start by choosing an avatar.  Do you want a professional-looking headshot?  Or something more informal – only you know what works in your organization.  Once you’ve set up your avatar, your presence status lets people know if you’re available or not.  We have now improved presence status by adding a custom status feature. Perfect for letting people know when you’re heads down in an urgent deliverable or just off for lunch. For times when you need zero distractions, you can activate the do not disturb feature.

Presence status in Webex Meetings and set a new status

2. Organize your Team and spaces

Whether you are working in a project team, or you are a supervisor/line manager – consider creating a Team for your group.  You can add people and spaces to that team.  For example, I have a Team set up with my staff which contains a number of spaces including spaces for discussing Webex app marketing, UC devices marketing, and a general space for watercooler chat.  I can easily add new members and give them access to common spaces I can quickly navigate to the topics we discuss as a group.

Organization tab in Webex Teams and organize the classified department

Team spaces in Webex teams includes 'project bento box ECM,' 'Customer Test Group,' 'Marketing Analysis,' 'Social Corner,' 'Internal Testing,' 'Organization News,' UI Visual Design,' 'Web and Mobile Team,' Tablet UX,' 'Leadership News,' 'Product Marketing' 'Engineering,' 'Ideas & Inspo' 'Barbera's Team' Product builds,' 'Localisation,' and 'San Jose Office'

3. Cut through the noise

We are all bombarded with information and communications.  Too many emails, too many messaging threads, etc.  Quickly getting to the conversations that matter most is a skill we all need.  To help with this, Webex Teams has introduced new and improved filters that are designed to help you focus on what is important to you. You can now separate lists of 1:1 and team spaces.  You can view messages by spaces with @mentions, unread messages, draft messages, flagged messages and favourites.  You can ensure your favourite people and spaces are always at the top of the list and hide spaces that you don’t need to see all the time.

Webex Teams and conversations

4. Connecting for the first time? Make a lasting impression with People Insights

Need a conversation starter to break the ice and show you have taken some time to prepare for a first-time encounter?  People Insights means you can keep up to date with the latest, publicly accessible, information on your colleagues and external stakeholders at the click of a button. Never miss a new promotion, a business award or organisation update. And, if your IT team has enabled it, you can also see information from your corporate directory – their department, line management, location and more.

 

5. Spread the love and have some fun

Team collaboration shouldn’t be all work and no play. Virtual spaces are great places to share successes and key wins. Webex Teams now allows you make your interactions more personal with the introduction of gifs, emojis and animated reactions. Applaud your teammates. Send a gif to match the mood or show your appreciation with a thumbs up!

Adding a 'Awesome' GIPHY in Webex Teams, images of rockt, smiling ice cream and cursive 'awesome' words

Animated reactions in webex teams to include celebrate, heart, thumbs up, smiley face, wow face, and sad faceThere’s far more to Webex Team collaboration than I have had time for here. So, in my next blog in this series,  I’ll share my Top 5 tips for collaborating on a document.

In the meantime – if you haven’t used Webex Teams yet, you may already be entitled to it if you have a current Webex subscription or a Cisco Collaboration Flex Plan. Alternatively, you can download Webex Teams for free.

See how you can make teamwork your best work

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Delighting remote workers: Why user experience is important

Embracing the rise of remote working

How to prepare for the return to work

Still Need Help?

What would you like to do?

Join a Webex online meeting.

Learn more about web meetings and video conferencing.

Sign up for Webex.

Visit our home page or contact us directly for assistance.

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One decade is coming to a close and 2020 brings in a new year and new opportunities
The future of work isn’t coming, it’s here

One decade is coming to a close and 2020 brings in a new year and new opportunities. In this busy season of holiday parties, copious amounts of shopping, and wrapping up end-of-year projects, people are also beginning to think about new resolutions and new ways to reset and reorient themselves for what this next year has in store.

At Cisco Webex, we’re doing this as well. The phrase, “Future of Work,” has been buzzing for a bit of time, but it’s time to move this from hype to reality and we’re ready. In fact, we’re already there. As we think about this coming year, and as we set goals for what we want to do as a company, now is the time to turn the “Future of Work” into today and seize the opportunities it presents to us.

In an article in Boss Magazine, Cory Treffiletti, Global Head of Marketing for Webex.com at Cisco refreshingly cuts through the sea of buzzwords related to this topic and highlights a few truly impactful trends that are driving this change in the workplace.

He calls out,

“While technology of the recent past has made businesses more productive and efficient, it tended to hamper the true human connection. Think email and even conference calls. The face-to-face interaction was missing. People are starting to realize that a call is far better than email, and a video call, even better. Picking up and reaching out to someone may never be as efficient as typing a message and hitting send, but it is more efficient when you factor in the resulting back and forth that results.”

Let’s consider this: The “Future of Work” is not five years from now, it’s tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. We all have a hand to play in how our businesses will run and what we want them to look like.

Check out Boss Magazine’s article on four trends to keep an eye on in the not so distant “Future of Work.”

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Cisco at SXSW 2019: Cognitive collaboration and the future of work

The Future of Work is Today

Cisco’s Single Platform and Unified App Make a More Human Approach to Transforming your Workplace

 

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Gartner recognizes Cisco as a leader in their Gartner Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions 2018

By:  Sri Srinivasan, VP & GM, Team Collaboration Group

Online meetings now play a significant role in our everyday business. As with your face-to-face meetings, you need everything to go smoothly so the focus remains on the topics of discussion—not distractions. Everyone at Cisco understands this, which is why we strive to make Cisco Webex Meetings the very best it can be.

Recently, we were honored and humbled to learn that Gartner had recognized Cisco as a Leader in the recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions 2018. For a deep dive into their evaluation, check out the 2018 Critical Capabilities for Meeting Solutions report.

As you’ll see in the Critical Capabilities report’s introduction, Gartner advises: “Meeting solution providers suit different use cases, from internal collaboration to presentations, training and large events. Application leaders responsible for digital workplace initiatives should look beyond video and audio features to areas such as advanced reporting and management controls.”

This is so true, and we believe that every customer should evaluate vendors to help ensure your unique needs are being met. For this reason, we’re pleased to share the Gartner report to provide you with insights into meeting solutions for all four use cases:

– External presentations
– Webinars
– Internal collaboration
– Learning and training

Gartner evaluates vendors across each use case and provides insightful recommendations.

After reviewing the report, think about Cisco Webex for:

– Enterprise and video integrations driven by our “open and interoperable” strategy
– An extensive channel ecosystem for sales, delivery, and support across more global regions than competitors
– A broad and proven range of endpoints to suit your uses
The extensive Webex backbone global IP network infrastructure

All of us at Cisco are very proud of this recognition from Gartner. Rest assured, our innovation will continue going forward. Watch this space for even more exciting news on the way around creating amazing meeting experiences.

Try Webex for yourself with a 30-day free trial.

Want to see the full reports? Get a complimentary copy here

Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions, Mike Fasciani, Tom Eagle, Adam Preset, 4 September 2018

Gartner Critical Capabilities for Meeting Solutions, Tom Eagle, Mike Fasciani, Adam Preset, October 15, 2018. This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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Three Musts for Successful Online Events

Online meetings are gaining popularity as extremely cost-effective and engaging mediums to collaborate with employees, partners and teams who may not be in the same location. However, when your objectives are to share information or attract more leads and not necessarily to collaborate over a project or initiative, hosting an online event may be a better alternative. And now is the time to be sure you have the right tools so your events are flawless every time.

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