April 19, 2012
My Skype conversation with Stéphane Giraudie cut in and out a bit – not so great for getting quotes, but great PR for Giraudie’s new product: Voxeet.
Launched at DEMO conference on Wednesday, Voxeet wants you to make conference calls without pulling your hair out. Three years of R&D helped the team identify callers’ top headaches: low-quality sound, not knowing who’s talking, and being “chained” to your desktop.
The downside: Voxeet is only available on Windows computers and Android phones; look for it on Mac and iPhone in 3-6 months. For now, you can try out the Voxeet beta for free. Later, expect free and paid versions for individuals and licensing options for larger companies.
Below, Giraudie explains the technology behind Voxeet and shares a telling anecdote about how eBay employees felt about Skype.
Tech Cocktail: Why hasn’t this problem been solved yet?
Stéphane Giraudie: A lot of progress was made connecting with each other – when it comes to web sharing, and video conferencing, and chatting. But for some reason, you’re right, the voice has been left behind. We’re still calling with AM type of audio … and the quality is not acceptable, especially for a professional type of environment and when multiple people are calling at the same time….
Yes, I’m as surprised as you are that we’re putting so much effort on HD video when we don’t even have HD audio. That doesn’t make sense. That’s the foundation for any good conversation or collaboration online.
Tech Cocktail: Will it be difficult to break into the industry? I know big companies are often slow in adopting new technologies.
Giraudie: So many people [at DEMO] stopped me to say, “Yeah, I can feel the pain. That’s what we’re experiencing every day.” So I think that when you experience Voxeet, there’s no turning back.
Tech Cocktail: How does Voxeet compare to Skype?
Giraudie: I spoke with executives from PayPal and eBay, and at the time Skype was part of eBay. And all their employees were mandated to use Skype, and they got a headset, but just nobody was using Skype to make those professional calls because they knew it was not reliable enough. It’s good enough to call your family over the weekend – it’s free, it’s cheap, it’s better than the traditional phone – but it’s not optimized for distributed teams, for multiple participants, and it’s not reliable enough for an important conversation.
Tech Cocktail: I understand you worked on developing this technology for 3 years. What was most challenging?
Giraudie: We wanted the technology to be mobile from the ground up. The challenge was to make the algorithm and the technology to be portable and scalable, so we started from the mobile devices. And that’s why we’re sharing the same code between the smartphones and the PC, and that has been a real challenge. And that pushed us to really think about how to simplify the user experience, how to make the calling experience always high-quality, very crystal clear, wherever you are…
And then we had to add a lot of sound algorithms to make the sound very reliable. … And on top of that, we have a lot of algorithms to correct that sound, from the background noise consolidation, lag detection – we can catch up if for some reason one of the networks goes a bit slower.
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