What does the future hold for communication and collaboration?
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of effective communication and collaboration across the remote workforce. McKinsey Global Institute found that just five percent of the global workforce worked remotely pre-pandemic. Today, that number has risen to an astonishing forty percent.
Many other sectors were impacted by the pandemic. For example, in-person events (live concerts, multi-day conferences) have gone completely digital. In fact, MediaLink and iHeartMedia partnered with SpatialWeb earlier this year to host the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). During the event, attendees networked with other participants, learned from industry professionals, and even tuned into iHeartMedia’s lineup of award-winning artists, including Chris Martin, Dua Lipa, and Billie Eilish.
“SpatialWeb really achieved what we hoped it would. For MediaLink, it has never been about the food or the party; it is about the efficiency and the opportunity to interact,” said MediaLink Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan.
As more teams adopt a remote-first approach to work and entertainment, an investment in next-generation communication and collaboration technology is critical. Many forward-thinking videoconferencing and virtual events teams have already made serious investments in technology built to deliver high quality, immersive, and collaborative experiences to users and participants worldwide.
Which Technologies Will Shape the Future of Collaboration?
So, what types of technology are worth investing in?
If you’re developing a new videoconferencing app or hosting an upcoming virtual event, it’s a question worth asking. However, when you consider the total volume and variety of technologies currently available on the market, it’s a difficult question to answer.
To start, we’ve seen some promising developments related to audio technology. Of course, as the industry-leader in real-time spatial audio, we might be a bit biased when we say that high quality and immersive audio has the potential to shape the future of communication and collaboration now and for many years to come. (Curious to learn more about what “spatial audio” means? Check out this blog post with a helpful infographic that quickly conveys how it works and its main benefits.)
The use cases for spatial audio are boundless and since its inception, we’ve seen plenty of amazing examples of immersive audio in use.
For example, Skittish is a new online events platform where participants dress as playful animal avatars. As events attendees move through the digital space and interact with one another, speakers are more intelligible and conversations feel more natural. High Fidelity automatically transforms all audio streams and positional information into a “spatialized sound collage” for all event attendees. Skittish creator Andy Baio describes it further: “It gives a much better experience for everyone — much better audio quality, more accurate 3D sound, lower latency, and more cross-browser compatibility.”
Does spatial audio make sense for your application?
When we look to the future of collaboration, spatial audio will undoubtedly revolutionize entire industries. However, it’s not the only technology that videoconferencing and virtual events app developers should prioritize in the coming months and years.
Here is a list of next-generation technologies destined to change the way we communicate and collaborate.
1. Virtual Reality Technology
“Virtual Reality (VR) adds a new dimension to the experience of a narrative through immersion. One has a sense of “presence” in the scene — of personal participation.” Major technology companies like Google and Microsoft have recently introduced new wearables to enhance gaming experiences, too. Spatial has even made the case for virtual reality in the workplace.
“As companies have extended work from home policies, they’re looking at ways to bring teams and individuals together,” says Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern. “Plus, even before the pandemic, virtual reality used within businesses was forecasted to grow from $829 million in 2018 to $4.26 billion in 2023.”
However, many business owners and managers are still skeptical. Can virtual reality experiences and interactions really mimic real life collaboration? Most industry insiders agree that virtual reality, despite its explosive growth in recent years, still has a long way to go in terms of usability, ease of access, and effectiveness.
Whether the use case is for gaming or working, many teams have gone to significant lengths to create more powerful moments inside of their virtual worlds. In many cases, audio is the key difference-maker here. Adding spatial audio to a virtual reality solution is one of the best ways to make it sound like you’re working beside your coworkers even when you're hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
Although music and environmental sounds have been used to great effect throughout gaming history to craft a more immersive experience, spatial audio hasn’t seen as much focus… until now. “Not only does well made spatial audio allow a user to become more immersed in their virtual experience, it is an important channel for information about their environment.”
RELATED READING: The 3 Best Virtual Experiences for Groups
2. Cloud-Based Technology
The technological demands of voice and video communication will continue to force businesses and organizations to invest heavily in cloud-based software solutions. Most videoconferencing and telecommunications tools already utilize cloud computing to facilitate seamless collaboration (communication, file management).
From improved organizations to increased engagement across the distributed workforce, the benefits of cloud computing cannot be overstated. In the future, teams will continue to look for opportunities to leverage cloud-based technology to improve connectivity and work collectively.
3. Virtual Whiteboards
When working remotely, virtual whiteboards are a fantastic replacement for basic whiteboards or chalkboards. It may seem like a fairly rudimentary technology, but a virtual whiteboard is an essential tool for growing enterprises. Check out Zapier's article for a list of the best online whiteboards.
In fact, according to one industry report, the global interactive whiteboard market is expected to reach $2.31 billion by 2025. This growth trajectory was expedited by the market’s sudden shift to remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most teams enjoy the flexibility that virtual whiteboards provide. However, there are hundreds of other features that benefit distributed workforces. “Virtual whiteboards are essential to the ideation phase, bringing teams together to spur creativity through brainstorming solutions, developing new ideas, and thinking through improvements,” says Lucid’s Karl Sun. “The virtual whiteboard gives everyone a voice, allowing teams to hold effective and dynamic brainstorming sessions and align on new ideas in real-time.”
RELATED READING: 5 Ways Brands are Using Immersive Technology in 2021
4. Machine Learning Technology
In recent years, teams are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to facilitate better collaboration. These types of tools automate and systematize internal processes in an effort to maximize efficiency and productivity.
There is no greater example of machine learning in the workplace than bots. From scheduling meetings to creating help desk tickets, bots and other similar artificial intelligence-assisted tools can eliminate or expedite repetitive tasks. Here's a list from Trello of 12 great productivity bots.
For example, Workplace from Facebook supports a variety of bot integrations from users’ favorite tools and services, including Dropbox, Office 365, and Zoom. Workplace also delivers real-time translation powered by machine learning.
5. Videoconferencing and Virtual Events Technology
We’ve seen promising developments in the videoconferencing and virtual events spaces. When it comes to collaboration, today’s videoconferencing and virtual events platforms put users at the center of a dynamic and interactive experience.
To date, we’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the industry’s most exciting solutions providers. The videoconferencing and virtual events leaders below are paving the way on virtual collaboration and communication.
Use Hubbub’s virtual events platform to power “natural conversations in beautiful spaces online.” This platform allows team members to “move” through a digital space and conduct high-value virtual meetings, presentations, and more. This system utilizes spatial audio to make it feel as if you were actually sitting across the table from meeting participants or conference attendees.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 placed a massive burden on the live events industry. SoundStage makes it possible for partygoers to attend live events from the comfort of their living rooms. SoundStage has already attracted talented musicians and artists, including Deerskin and Kill Paris.
“Every artist has fans for whom their music reaches deep and has lasting effects at the existential level. We’re excited to provide a means for fans to experience intimate, authentic connections with artists that have influenced them the most,” says Ara Kevonian, CEO at SoundStage.
Social meeting space Breakroom is a 3D virtual world for social and business events, created by developer Sine Wave Entertainment (a company that got its start in Second Life, actually, founded by High Fidelity’s CEO Philip Rosedale). Breakroom enhances collaboration with secure, custom designed virtual meeting spaces for remote teams to openly share ideas as they work from anywhere around the world — with all the functionality of an office. You can also host immersive virtual conferences with easy-to-use tools such as videoconferencing, breakout sessions, and much more.
“The real benefit of having 3D audio in a virtual world like this is you can have lots of conversations going on simultaneously,” Adam Frisby, Chief Product Officer and Co-founder of Sine Wave said. “3D audio is the only way to replicate the real-world experience in an online environment. You can have a 150-person conference and end up with 10 groups of people talking at the same time. That has helped us with engagement,” Frisby told Dean Takahashi for VentureBeat.
Add Spatial Audio to Your Videoconferencing or Virtual Events Platform
When it comes to delivering high quality audio, most other videoconferencing and virtual events platforms fall a bit short. It’s a critical but frequently overlooked component that can either make or break the user experience.
So what’s the best way to instantly level up the audio experience inside your app?
With just a few lines of code, you can use our Spatial Audio API to integrate real-time voice communication into your new or existing videoconferencing or virtual events platform.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Is spatial audio right for my unique application?” To answer that question, it’s helpful to think about the following concept:
Have you ever attended a crowded party or concert? Imagine chatting one-on-one with a friend and focusing your attention entirely on your conversation with them — while being able to filter out the many stimuli happening around you. The same thing happens inside of our favorite digital spaces. This is what we call the “cocktail party effect.”
Adding spatial audio to your application makes for more lifelike audio. Each sound comes from a defined location and space. In practice, compared to conventional VOIP audio, spatialized audio is clearer and easier for listeners to interpret and understand.
Additionally, we’re one of the few spatial audio providers that gives developers full control over the entire audio experience, including user positioning, loudness, room attenuation, and more. We’ll even give you free, unlimited user minutes for development!
Just create your account to get started – no credit card required.