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Sound & vision, part 1

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Apr 15, 2021

How RingCentral is raising the bar for user experience

Highlights:


An estimated 58% of businesses worldwide now use video conferencing for their everyday operations. As distributed workforces grow in both size and ubiquity, that number is only going to rise.  So, what’s next? RingCentral’s “5 Video Conferencing Trends to Watch in 2020/2021” puts User Experience at the top of the list. Obviously, a key element of that experience is audio quality. For RingCentral’s top engineers, that’s a challenge worth getting excited about. 

 

Performance in any environment

It’s easy to deliver quality user experience under controlled conditions. But when network performance isn’t where it should be, the ability to deliver, smooth, uninterrupted performance can set a product apart. 

“Most audio/video applications give you a fairly decent experience—when network conditions are perfect,” says VP of Engineering Sumeet Vohra.

“Providing a pristine audio/video experience over networks with packet loss networks with high degrees of latency or bandwidth limits is more challenging. Our teams are working deep under the hood of core technologies to see where we can make real, game-changing improvements to audio quality – no matter what the network itself is like.”

 

Solving for babies

Networks aren’t the only place audio issues can crop up. According to Vohra, everyday issues also have a way of becoming interesting challenges. 

“When it comes to noise reduction? Challenges can come from anywhere: Crying babies, traffic noise, pets, echo from people’s speakers and microphones—how do you deal with that (using) software? Those are just a few of the challenges we’ll be taking on.”

 

Keeping it fresh

RingCentral provides a single platform for voice, video meetings, team messaging and collaboration—which means engineers have to solve for multiple scenarios, without sacrificing user experience at any point. According to Vohra, that’s where things get interesting.

 “I think the transition between (using) these different modes, plus other collaborative tools while doing that, is where we stand out. It’s a better combination, but one that inherently enables different use cases — not just corporate meetings, but listening to music, design meetings with your colleagues and so on. With the pandemic, we’ve had to quickly enable things people would have done in-person, remotely. So we’ve gotten a crash course in the kinds of scenarios that need to be enabled, but there’s always something new. Our team is here to ensure a good user experience whatever the use case, and to do it at massive scale. That keeps things fresh for engineers.”

 

Allegro con brio

In December 2020, RingCentral Video proved itself worthy of the ultimate audio challenge- a collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony – successfully hosting virtual events, ranging from Q&A sessions to lectures on music history and holiday performances. According to Senior Director of Video Engineering Arnaud Budklewicz, sharing a live performance of the most sonically advanced musicians in the world was a job like no other. 

“What was interesting was, we actually had to remove the audio processing we’d normally use for meetings, because there’s a difference between one-to-one communication between humans, and transmitting the highest quality of music. So it was actually a mode where we reversed everything we’d normally do on the client side and server side. Plus, when you need to capture in stereo, you need to capture at a higher bitrate. So the “music mode” we employed was a really interesting combination of specific optimizations.”

 

Higher fidelity, better security

Before you know it, today’s slide presentations will become tomorrow’s 4k video presentations with multichannel audio. And all of it will need to work flawlessly, with end-to-end security, in any environment. For RingCentral’s Engineering team, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for next week’s follow up to hear where the team sees us talking video in the brave new work-from-anywhere world.     #strongertogether

 

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