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Can Interactive Audio Improve Videoconferencing?

by Emily Iwankovitsch Social Media Marketing Manager

The justification for high-resolution, interactive audio is biological in nature. 

“We have to work so much harder to understand someone when the sound quality is poor or choppy; that work takes up brain power that needs to be devoted to understanding and absorbing the message, not just discerning the words,” writes Meghan Kennelly. She summarizes Julian Treasure’s research on how sound affects us in four ways:

  • Physiologically: Sound changes hormones, breathing, heart rate, even brain waves. Sudden sounds, interpreted as threats, will produce stress hormones. In reverse, calming sounds can soothe us.
  • Psychologically: Any sound with associations can change our feelings. For example, a ringtone associated with a certain person causing excitement or the voice of a difficult client producing immediate fear. Straining to understand during a conference call can quickly create frustration.
  • Cognitively: Noisy open offices or multiple people talking at once on a videoconferencing call makes it harder to focus. Unclear sound can make it harder to understand and properly think during a meeting.
  • Behaviorally: We will move away from unpleasant sounds if we can. In conferences we desire to physically leave, but in most cases we mentally check out.

Think about even walking into a retail shop that is blasting music you don’t like — how likely are you to leave? Or imagine you’re watching a video and the audio is choppy… how quickly do you turn it down, or completely off?

In this article, we’ll explore the unique impact that high-quality, interactive audio has on videoconferencing… for not just adults, but kids, too. Can interactive audio really improve videoconferencing? 

How Interactive Audio Impacts Videoconferencing

Julian Treasure elaborates in Revolabs’ Academy of Communication: “Sound has always been the basis for effective distant communication. We talk about videoconferencing and most of the budget tends to go on impressive visuals: the “V” outweighs the “A” because we can see it on the wall. But if the sound fails, what are you going to do? Use sign language? Hold up pieces of paper? If the video fails and you have good audio, the meeting can carry on almost unaffected. Sound is critical.”

In fact, there is even research on why audio-only meetings are easier for humans to comprehend than ones with video. Check out that research here.

Simply put: Audio quality is important. 

Especially in these times, those working remotely absolutely expect audio to be clearly intelligible over a conference call... and let’s be honest, it has certainly never been more necessary. Being able to effectively communicate with colleagues, friends, and loved ones is imperative, and not always possible in person.

How Interactive Audio Impacts Learning

Studies over the past four decades have underscored the crucial link between being able to hear clearly and learning more effectively, too. “Researchers have identified important benefits to all learners, including increased speech intelligibility, increased academic achievement and listening abilities.” (These benefits are particularly important for English language learners and those navigating learning differences.) After all, research finds that students spend an estimated 75% of their day listening.

Other research finds that the role of interactive audio plays a part in building children’s literacy skills and engagement, too. “Audiobooks can help build reading engagement with younger children, particularly around interaction, complementing other forms of storytelling, and through the use of compelling characters. There is a strong appetite for hearing stories, with almost all children in our survey (95.6%) saying they enjoy hearing stories read to them. The inclusion of multiple voices, sound effects and music can help enrich the experience of a story in audio form.”

It’s not just adults who need to host virtual meetings with colleagues (here are some tips for that, too), network at online conferences, and enjoy digital events with friends… it’s kids now, too, and having clear, interactive audio matters for them.

Integrate Interactive Audio Into Your App

Are you working on an app for remote workers, kids learning online, or good friends hosting online events and looking to integrate good quality spatial audio? Spatial audio will add yet another dimension to having awesome audio (just ask Apple — spatial audio is exploding right now…). Spatial audio creates a scenario where you feel as though you are actually in the room with your coworkers or friends, sitting right there next to you… talk about creating the best, most interactive scenario you can when physically far apart from people you want to effectively communicate with.

Curious to know more? You can read more here for a clear explanation on what spatial audio actually is, and why it helps so much. (There’s a nice infographic there.)

And the best part of all this? It’s actually easy to integrate spatial audio into your app now. Try it out by creating a free developer account below, and experiment with what your app sounds like. 

Published by Emily Iwankovitsch July 22, 2021

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