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Cisco to Acquire BabbleLabs to Significantly Improve Webex Audio Quality and Clarity
September 2, 2020 News

 

Sounds of dogs barking, noisy neighbours, lawnmowers, car alarms and moving vehicles – these are just some of the unwanted background noises every user of video conferencing software has probably encountered while in a meeting. It is important for users to have clear audio from both ends of the meeting to improve productivity and the user experience.

Cisco promises the mitigation of this problem with its announcement of intent to acquire BabbleLabs, which will help Cisco’s video conferencing platform, Webex, in improving the quality of its audio.

In a virtual media briefing last week, Jeetu Patel, Cisco SVP and GM, Security and Applications, explained that using video conferencing apps like Webex is now of paramount importance, as the “workforce could be working from home for a long time or even permanently after the pandemic, this is why improvements in video conferencing apps are needed”.

Patel started the briefing by saying that the work-from-home setup may introduce distractions, including background noise from users or the people they are communicating with. As a commitment for its customers, Cisco decided to acquire BabbleLabs to further improve user experience, especially the clarity of audio during meetings.

BabbleLabs will bring noise removal natively to Webex, distinguishing human voice from background noise by using AI, removing background noise no matter where you are, enhancing your voice no matter the language, with processing that ensures privacy and security.

Patel announced that the feature will be available in Fall 2020 along with other Webex existing features including background blur or replacement, real-time transcriptions and captions, 50% video packet loss compensation and whiteboard for live ideation.

For further information, the full press release of Cisco’s recent announcement is as follows:

Cisco Announces Intent to Acquire BabbleLabs To Improve Video Meeting Experience

News Summary:

  • Intent to acquire BabbleLabs’ noise removal and speech enhancement technology furthers Cisco’s commitment to delivering an exceptional video meeting experience from anywhere and on any device through the Webex application.
  • Acquisition builds upon a focused technology and talent strategy to continue to integrate intelligence into the Cisco Collaboration platform – helping users work smarter and be more productive.
  • Promotes Customer Privacy and Cloud Security by processing noise removal, 100 per cent at the source where the noise happens (on the client-side), aligning with Cisco’s culture of security by design.

Work is what you do, not where you go. With this reality, unwanted background noise has become one of the most common and frustrating distractions in today’s work environment. To help users control unwanted noise in meetings – be it from barking dogs, lawnmowers, a car alarm or sirens – Cisco today announced its intent to acquire privately-held BabbleLabs, Inc. headquartered in Campbell, CA.

BabbleLabs uses advanced AI (Artificial Intelligence) techniques to distinguish human speech from unwanted noise, enhancing the quality of communications and conferencing applications. BabbleLabs goes beyond existing noise suppression technology solutions by:

  • Distinguishing speech from background noise;
  • Removing background noise in real-time; and
  • Enhancing the voice to elevate communication, regardless of language.

According to a Cisco global survey focused on the future of work, 98 per cent of workers say they experience frustration from distractions during video meetings when working from home. Two of the top 5 frustrations called out are about background noise—either from other participants or their own side of the call.

With the addition of BabbleLabs, Cisco will bring native noise removal capability to its entire Collaboration portfolio. Initially, Cisco will focus on integrating BabbleLabs to deliver a best-in-class audio experience to Webex Meetings users – wherever they are and however they connect via the Webex application (whether via a conference room or mobile device). Great user experience is also secure user experience. BabbleLabs complements Cisco’s focus on secure and private collaboration by processing noise removal 100 per cent at the source where the noise happens (on the client-side). In doing so, BabbleLabs aligns to strict data policies that underpin Cisco’s culture of security by design.

“A great meeting experience starts with great audio”, said Jeetu Patel, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit. “We’re thrilled to welcome BabbleLabs’ team of highly skilled engineers. Their technology is going to provide our customers with yet another important innovation – automatically removing unwanted noise – to continue enabling exceptional Webex meeting experiences”.

“BabbleLabs is excited to become part of Cisco and the Collaboration Group”, said Chris Rowen, CEO and Co-Founder of BabbleLabs. “The Cisco team shares our passion about speech as the core of collaboration and communication. Cisco’s Collaboration platform will enable us to quickly scale our exceptional speech enhancement technology for hundreds of millions of Webex users”.

Key Facts:

  • The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of Cisco’s FY21, subject to customary closing conditions and required regulatory approvals.
  • Upon completion of the transaction, the BabbleLabs team will join the Cisco Collaboration Group, led by Javed Khan, Senior Vice President and General Manager, which is part of the Cisco Security and Applications Business, led by Jeetu Patel.
  • Cisco Collaboration is trusted by 95 per cent of the Fortune 500.

The BabbleLabs acquisition builds on Cisco’s investments in AI technology and talent over the last three years – all designed to make collaboration more intelligent, secure, effective and productive. Cisco is uniquely focused on every phase of work and meetings. This includes: before meetings by serving insights into people attending the meeting or being able to see who’s on before you join and more; during meetings through optimised audio and video, blurred or custom background across any OS, touchless sharing of ideas and files, automated note-taking, live transcription and more; as well as after meetings by automatically sending meeting notes with spoken action items.

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