The Sound of Hybrid Meeting Equity
In virtual meetings, being able to fully hear and be heard should be non-negotiable
Read the previous post: A Better Vision for Hybrid Meeting Equity.
Read the first post in the series: Designing and Engineering Hybrid Meeting Equity
In this third and final post, we will cover the audio element of the equation and why the ability to fully hear and be heard is essential for hybrid work success.
Speaking of Poor Audio
There are three main problems with audio that hybrid workers currently struggle with:
- Speakers’ effect on audio
When added up, these factors result in a poor experience. But what are they, exactly, and how can they be fixed?
Let’s Hear it for Noise Reduction
In any meeting, it is important for the audio experience to be tuned to the environment. Meaning, you don’t want your microphone to always pick up every little noise, no matter what it is.
Rather, the goal should be to intelligently and automatically determine what is important (voices) and what isn’t (noise), and adjust the dials accordingly.
There are two types of noise that are hallmarks of hybrid work:
- Stationary noise
- Extraneous noise
HVAC systems and fans blowing are examples of stationary noise, whereas key taps, chewing, mic bumps, and wind are examples of extraneous noise.
Both types of noise make it hard to hear and be heard. Noise attenuation (a fancy word for reduction) is critical for proper hearing, especially as hybrid workers move in and out of different environments.
At Logitech, we’ve deployed advanced ideas, concepts, and tools in AI and machine learning into our conference camera microphones to improve voice quality and remove both types of noise at the same time, improving overall communication.
These algorithms run on the device itself and are turned on by default, preserving and enhancing speech in real time.
Here’s to Two-Way Audio
Many meeting devices feature “half duplex” audio, or one-way audio transmission. This is analogous to speaking on walkie-talkies, where people cannot speak and hear at the same time.
This creates a frustrating dynamic for participants in hybrid meetings where they can’t converse with a natural give-and-take. With half duplex audio, when one person is speaking, everyone else’s microphone is disabled, making group conversations unrealistic.
Over time, being constrained in this manner wears people down and results in exhaustion.
Walkie-talkies are fun for summer camp and sleepovers, but full duplex audio, or simultaneous two-way audio transmission, is needed to get things done in the virtual meeting room.
With full duplex behavior, people can interrupt and talk simultaneously, as people typically do, without the other person’s voice dropping out. It makes both one-on-one and group conversations more lifelike and productive.
This is made possible because full duplex audio has two dedicated signals for sending and receiving audio. We’ve incorporated full duplex audio into our products at Logitech with the use of thoughtful noise cancellation design.
Insulating and Isolating the Speaker
Certain speaker builds can cause audible vibration, distortion, and other interruptions. When this occurs, the user is forced to mute their mic when the speaker is on, and vice versa. This is not an ideal communication experience - far from it.
Why does this happen, technically speaking? Typically, sound vibrates the plastic of the speaker box, and noise comes out of the speaker and back into the microphone - noise that cannot be canceled out.
At Logitech, we spend a lot of energy and engineering expertise on building a very low distortion speaker system. The whole Logitech speaker box rides on multiple rubber cushions, designed for the right texture and to hold the speaker the right way so it doesn’t sag over time.
This is similar to the shock absorbers or engine mount in a car, and allows the speakers to be very active and disseminate great sound all over the room, without vibrating the box.
Always be Heard
Research has shown that poor audio quality can be even more of a deal breaker in virtual meetings than poor video quality.
With these innovations, it is easy to fully hear and be heard naturally, both in individual and group conversations and in all kinds of environments.