Start-up’s technology uses AI techniques to help distinguish between human voices and background sounds
Cisco Systems is buying start-up BabbleLabs and its artificial intelligence (AI) technology to improve the quality of its Webex collaboration offerings at a time when many employees are still working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lowdown: Cisco this week announced the deal for the 3-year-old company based in Campbell, California, and expects to close on it by the end of the current quarter. No financial details were released.
The Details: BabbleLabs’ Clear Edge, Clear Command, and Clear Cloud offerings help users reduce unwanted background noise during online virtual meetings. The company’s products leverage AI techniques to distinguish human speech from unwanted noises – such as lawn mowers or barking dogs – during video or audio conferences. BabbleLabs’ technologies can be embedded in communications and conferencing applications not only to distinguish speed from background noise but also to remove background noise in real time and enhance voices to improve communication.
Cisco plans to add BabbleLabs’ technologies to its entire portfolio of collaboration products, initially focusing on Webex Meetings.
Once the deal is complete, the BabbleLabs employees will be folded into Cisco’s Collaboration Group, which is led by Javed Khan, senior vice president and general manager.
The Impact: Online and cloud-based communications technologies have become increasingly important given the widely distributed workforce. Vendors like Cisco, Zoom, and Microsoft have all seen significant increases in use since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. They will continue to play a key role in the coming years, with many companies expecting a larger percentage of employees to work from home even after the pandemic passes.
An upcoming Cisco survey about the changing work environment caused by COVID-19 will show that 98% of workers who work from home are frustrated by distractions during video meetings and that two of the top five frustrations noted by respondents are about background noise, both from other participants or from their own side.
The Buzz: “A great meeting experience starts with great audio,” said Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Security and Applications Business Unit. “We’re thrilled to welcome BabbleLabs’ team of highly skilled engineers. Their technology is going to provide our customers with yet another important innovation – automatically removing unwanted noise – to continue enabling exceptional Webex meeting experiences.”
“BabbleLabs is excited to become part of Cisco and the Collaboration Group,” said Chris Rowen, co-founder and CEO of BabbleLabs. “The Cisco team shares our passion about speech as the core of collaboration and communication. Cisco’s Collaboration platform will enable us to quickly scale our exceptional speech enhancement technology for the hundreds of millions of Webex users.”