According to recent studies, the video collaboration market is expected to reach $11.56 billion by 2027. COVID-19 has underlined the importance of effective video collaboration and communication by placing considerable strain on event hosts and business owners.
Teams have been forced to adopt a digital-first approach to event planning and remote communication. As a result, Zoom reported nearly $1 billion in earnings in 2020.
“The Silicon Valley upstart has become synonymous with video chat over the course of the pandemic,” reported NPR’s Shannon Bond in A Pandemic Winner: How Zoom Beat Tech Giants to Dominate Video Chat. “It has fulfilled our need to see and be with each other, even when we can’t do that in person. And it’s beat some of the biggest names in technology along the way.”
However, the videoconferencing boom doesn’t end with COVID-19. In this article, we’ll discuss the future of videoconferencing and identify the best practices that your app development company must adopt to stay a step ahead.
What is the Future of Videoconferencing?
Industry-leading videoconferencing vendors are creating product differentiation by adding next-generation features to their unique applications. In recent months, some vendors have introduced real-time audio transcription, spatial audio, as well as other powerful add-ons to enhance the user experience.
The importance of these advanced features cannot be overstated.
Consider spatial audio: It creates a much more life-like audio experience in web apps — think of how you experience sound in real life. “There are two techniques used to move sounds left/right and in-front/behind you,” says High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale. “Combined these techniques are often referred to by the acronym HRTF, which stands for ‘Head Related Transfer Function.’ The long name really captures two fairly simple things. The first one is just the time delay between your ears: A sound coming from your right gets to your right ear a little before it gets to your left ear, so we delay the arrival at your far ear to create the effect.”
In short, to spatialize audio, the time delay between the left and right channels is shifted and the loudness of the frequencies is adjusted relative to the position of your head.
However, this is exactly where standard videoconferencing solutions still fall short. In most cases, audio emitted from a computer or smartphone is limited to a 90-degree horizontal stereo field. Of course, audio engineers can make simple audio adjustments by panning the sound left or right, but an advanced spatial audio solution gives developers full control over user positioning, loudness, room attenuation, and more.
Stanford University’s Jeremy Bailenson says, "Part of the reason we're fatigued by all these Zoom meetings isn't just the presence of video, it is also the audio quality and how voices are delivered to our ears. Think about it: in the physical world, all the sounds we hear and process in our brain come from different locations in a 3D environment. When you're at a cocktail party, you can have multiple people talking at the same time and still understand what everyone is saying.”
In the coming years, we expect spatial audio to become commonplace among new videoconferencing solution providers. Apple has already started to prime consumers by releasing all-new products that automatically support spatial audio.
However, spatial audio is just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a list of the changes we expect to see in videoconferencing.
1. Videoconferencing Rooms
What if conducting videoconferencing calls wasn’t so… exhausting?
Unfortunately, videoconference apps totally fail to simulate real life interactions. COVID-19 has placed us all in a unique predicament. The constant barrage of online meetings is enough to make you want to pull your hair out, right?
“In real conversation, you’re just talking,” writes Dr. Bailenson in an interview with The Washington Post. “You’re gesturing. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Now things like turn-taking have to become more deliberate. You have to think about ‘when am I going to unmute myself and click the button?’”
Companies like Hubbub and Skittish promise to change the way we communicate with one another online through special videoconferencing rooms:
Hubbub: Join friends and colleagues inside Hubbub’s beautiful online meeting spaces for virtual networking and conferences. As you move around the room, spatial audio, including stereo panning and distance-based volume, creates conversations that feel more natural. Hubbub can help support your vision with diverse rooms that can be branded and designed to your company’s needs.
Skittish: Skittish is one of the newest online events platforms. Attend events as an animal avatar and interact with other users as you move throughout the space. “Unlike a Zoom call, Skittish is a place – one where its inhabitants can bump into one another, do activities together, and wait for serendipity to strike,” said TechCrunch’s Taylor Hatmaker in Skittish is What You’d Get if You Crossed Animal Crossing With Clubhouse.
Gather: Gather combines video-calling with a 2D map, letting you walk around and talk to the other people right next to you. Creation tools also let you make your own custom, interactive spaces. “Universities use it to create virtual campuses; individuals use it to host games nights; groups of friends throw parties on it,” writes Rebecca Seal in Can Virtual Meeting Spaces Save Us All From Zoom Fatigue?
SpatialWeb: Recreates the atmosphere and mood of a real-life event with virtual spaces that are conducive to networking, serendipity, and collaboration. You’re able to fully customize the layout, use tools for gamification and moderation, and interact in 3D Spatial Audio powered by High Fidelity. “It was the best example that I have seen of ‘virtual serendipity’,” said David Cohen, lead event organizer of CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2021.
If you’re building a videoconferencing solution like the ones listed above, adding immersive audio to your application is easy. To get started, simply create your developer account and leverage our in-depth guides and code examples.
2. WebRTC Solutions
WebRTC enables users to conduct peer-to-peer voice and video communication inside web pages. It’s a simple technology that is available on most modern web browsers. WebRTC is an open-source project supported by industry-leading development teams at Apple, Microsoft, and Google. In terms of implementation, it’s relatively straightforward.
In most cases, it takes less than 10 lines of code to create a peer-to-peer video and voice communication between browsers. Of course, WebRTC is most commonly used for online calling and video applications. However, in the future, more complex applications, including gaming, education, and entertainment will also leverage WebRTC.
3. Cloud Computing and Storage
When you consider the high demand on voice and video communication on an organization’s technology infrastructure, cloud computing will continue to reshape and accelerate business growth. Most web-based email applications already utilize cloud computing to reduce users’ digital “weight.” Additionally, modern videoconference solutions allow users to connect seamlessly on any internet-enabled device through the cloud. From increased flexibility to cost-savings, cloud computing and storage encourages maximum growth and scalability across the enterprise.
In the future, videoconference applications will continue to leverage cloud computing and storage to deliver powerful and intuitive experiences to users. By placing less of a demand on user’s technology infrastructure, including hardware and software, teams can move with increased agility and effectiveness.
4. Single Sign-On Authentication
When managing multiple applications, single sign-on (SSO) authentication is an effective way to confirm a user’s identity. SSO is especially useful when it comes to videoconferencing and communication. Whether you’re signing on to your phone or joining from a laptop or desktop, SSO grants increased ease of access.
“In addition to being much simpler and more convenient for users, SSO is widely considered to be more secure,” says Cloudflare, a leader in software security.
Cloudflare cites the following SSO security benefits:
- Stronger passwords
- No repeated passwords
- Better password policy enforcement
- Multi-factor authentication
- Internal credential management instead of external storage
- Less time wasted on password recovery
When we look to the future, videoconference applications will continue to implement SSO, making it easy for users to manage and access multiple applications across devices.
5. High-Definition Video and Audio
When it comes to videoconferencing, there’s nothing more jarring to the user experience than poor audio and video quality. In fact, recent studies have shown that audio and video quality is the leading cause of employee frustration within videoconference apps.
As such, app development teams will continue to look for opportunities to improve video and audio quality within their applications. In some cases, machine learning and artificial intelligence have the potential to introduce rapid audio and video advancements. For example, Zoom already leverages this technology to deliver live video editing. With just a few clicks, users can “smooth” the complexion of their skin. Additionally, some solutions allow users to easily insert digital backgrounds.
Unfortunately, audio is an often overlooked part of the videoconferencing experience.
To deliver high quality, low latency audio to your videoconferencing application, spatial audio is a relatively simple and effective solution. Without spatial audio, online communication is highly laborious and places a steep cognitive load on participants. According to Dr. Bailenson, “With current videoconference platforms, we have to work extra hard to distinguish who's talking because all of the voices are coming from the same direction. Plus, Zoom and most other conventional [voice over internet protocol] solutions make it hard to have a natural conversation because they ‘duck’ all the speakers to increase the clarity of the loudest one.”
Here are a few examples of videoconferencing applications with spatial audio baked in:
- Spatial Audio API with TokBox Video
- Spatial Audio API with Agora Video
- Spatial Audio API with Daily Video
- Spatial Audio API with Twilio Video
Add Spatial Audio to Your Videoconferencing Application
The future of videoconferencing is clear. A new breed of videoconferencing solutions and remote communication tools will leverage next-generation features to create powerful and immersive experiences.
So, what’s the best way to add spatial audio to your videoconferencing application?
High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio API makes it simple and easy to get started. Add immersive, high quality voice chat to any videoconferencing application.
Thousands of industry-leading audio engineers and developers routinely leverage our in-depth guides and code examples to create immersive audio experiences. Additionally, in terms of audio quality and latency, High Fidelity is the leader of the pack.
Features and benefits:
- All audio is mixed on the server and sent to users through a personalized stream
- Low-latency delivers seamless and natural conversations to users
- Access an infinitely scalable development environment
- Zero increased bandwidth requirements
- Opus CODEC for recording high quality audio
- Access a simple API for fast integration
- Complete developer control over the entire audio environment
To get started, we recommend creating a free developer account. Your free account will allow you to test the Spatial Audio API integration for up to 20 people. Once you’re ready for production, you’ll have instant access to a complete production stack and support from our audio engineering experts.
How will you utilize our Spatial Audio API to level up your videoconferencing app?