What do movie theaters, home entertainment experiences and business communications have in common? Andrew Border, general manager of the Communications Business Group at Dolby Laboratories, tells CXOTalk about how Dolby Labs has expanded and developed an “immersive” audio experience for more natural conferencing.

“Really, the goal with Dolby Voice is that everyone can just act much more naturally in the conference room,” Border says. “A really great example of this would be two people in the conference room who are having a side conversation while someone’s presenting. On a Dolby Voice solution, you can actually train your attention to the two people having the side conversation or the person presenting. And, in a normal conferencing solution, you can’t do that. And, that’s how we hear in everyday life.”

Border joined Dolby in 2010, spearheading the development and worldwide launch of Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone, both of which have redefined audio conferencing. He is responsible for the expansion of Dolby technology into the communications market and oversees strategy and the creation and delivery of communications solutions for the market.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. We are at BroadSoft Connections 2017 and I’m speaking with Andrew Border, who is the General Manager of the Communications Business Group at Dolby Laboratories. So, Andrew, tell us about Dolby Labs?

Andrew Border: Right! Happy to. So, I’m sure you’re familiar with Dolby Labs from your own entertainment experiences whether it’s in the cinema, or in the home watching television, or on the mobile device increasingly. And for over fifty years, Dolby has really been focused on creating immersive experiences for the artistic community. But, for the last several years, we’ve been working on a set of initiatives focused on the communications space, particularly the business communications market because we saw that as a place where there was an opportunity to really deliver a much more engaging, immersive, and natural experience around audio.

Michael Krigsman: Andrew, when you talk about a natural communications experience, what does that mean?

Andrew Border: Yeah. I think, probably the best way of explaining that is comparing with how we hear in everyday life. So, imagine you and I are at the end of tonight's event, enjoying cocktails at the BroadSoft Connections cocktail party. And, we could be enjoying cocktails [in a] noisy environment: maybe there's a band playing; lots of people talking around us. And, remarkably, in that environment, you and I can still hear each other. And, we do that because of some remarkable parts of human physiology. In everyday life, we hear in stereo with humans — most of us. And that gives us this great capability of being able to tune out the distracting noises around us. And, if we compare that to a regular communications experience, particularly in conferencing where you have multiple people talking. And, what every other solution does is mix all of those voices together into one, single audio stream and more often than not just squirt it into one of your ears.

And then, when compared to our cocktail party analogy, what you're doing is having your brain trying to untangle all those different voices. And so, you imagine you're in a really important business meeting where you're trying to convey information and ideas. But, the last thing that you want to do is distract someone by having them try to work out all these different voices, all tangled up. And you’ve lost that moment to really engage someone and have them really process what you’re trying to communicate.

Michael Krigsman: Andrew, one of the themes at this conference is this notion of user expectations. So, where does that come into play?

Andrew Border: Most users today, they have a relatively low set of expectations around their business communication experience, which is really at odds in general with their experience around entertainment. And, the thing that's really interesting is if you think about those entertainment experiences today, I'll be using the same device, actually, for my business meeting — for my communication session. And often, those experiences just have a very, very big bar and difference between them in terms of quality. So, I think, increasingly what we're going to find is that users are becoming aware that the devices that they use increasingly for their personal entertainment experiences, their personal communication experiences, are actually capable of a great deal more. And one of the biggest changes is users' perception and expectation in terms of how great and immersive an experience could and should be.

Michael Krigsman: So, you’re providing improved, I was going to say “signal quality,” but it’s much more than that.

Andrew Border: Yeah. We think it goes a lot beyond just signal quality. I think, in fact, the communications industry, for really far too long, has been focused on, you know, just one aspect of audio and collaboration. And, we really still are only scratching the surface

Michael Krigsman: I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. We are at BroadSoft Connections 2017 and I’m speaking with Andrew Border, who is the General Manager of the Communications Business Group at Dolby Laboratories. So, Andrew, tell us about Dolby Labs?

Andrew Border: Right! Happy to. So, I’m sure you’re familiar with Dolby Labs from your own entertainment experiences whether it’s in the cinema, or in the home watching television, or on the mobile device increasingly. And for over fifty years, Dolby has really been focused on creating immersive experiences for the artistic community. But, for the last several years, we’ve been working on a set of initiatives focused on the communications space, particularly the business communications market because we saw that as a place where there was an opportunity to really deliver a much more engaging, immersive, and natural experience around audio.

Michael Krigsman: Andrew, when you talk about a natural communications experience, what does that mean?

Andrew Border: Yeah. I think, probably the best way of explaining that is comparing with how we hear in everyday life. So, imagine you and I are at the end of tonight's event, enjoying cocktails at the BroadSoft Connections cocktail party. And, we could be enjoying cocktails [in a] noisy environment: maybe there's a band playing; lots of people talking around us. And, remarkably, in that environment, you and I can still hear each other. And, we do that because of some remarkable parts of human physiology. In everyday life, we hear in stereo with humans — most of us. And that gives us this great capability of being able to tune out the distracting noises around us. And, if we compare that to a regular communications experience, particularly in conferencing where you have multiple people talking. And, what every other solution does is mix all of those voices together into one, single audio stream and more often than not just squirt it into one of your ears.

And then, when compared to our cocktail party analogy, what you're doing is having your brain trying to untangle all those different voices. And so, you imagine you're in a really important business meeting where you're trying to convey information and ideas. But, the last thing that you want to do is distract someone by having them try to work out all these different voices, all tangled up. And you’ve lost that moment to really engage someone and have them really process what you’re trying to communicate.

Michael Krigsman: Andrew, one of the themes at this conference is this notion of user expectations. So, where does that come into play?

Andrew Border: Most users today, they have a relatively low set of expectations around their business communication experience, which is really at odds in general with their experience around entertainment. And, the thing that's really interesting is if you think about those entertainment experiences today, I'll be using the same device, actually, for my business meeting — for my communication session. And often, those experiences just have a very, very big bar and difference between them in terms of quality. So, I think, increasingly what we're going to find is that users are becoming aware that the devices that they use increasingly for their personal entertainment experiences, their personal communication experiences, are actually capable of a great deal more. And one of the biggest changes is users' perception and expectation in terms of how great and immersive an experience could and should be.

Michael Krigsman: So, you’re providing improved, I was going to say “signal quality,” but it’s much more than that.

Andrew Border: Yeah. We think it goes a lot beyond just signal quality. I think, in fact, the communications industry, for really far too long, has been focused on, you know, just one aspect of audio and collaboration. And, we really still are only scratching the surface around how we process audio in everyday life. And, you know, things that Dolby is doing in terms of adding spatial audio, because, from a psychoacoustic point of view, the human brain is used to receiving the audio in a spatial way. It's the way we do that untangling trick I was talking about before. And, the experience in a conference room is another great example. You know, how many times have you seen this: that you see people leaning into a conference phone or speakerphone on the table? Because they really don't have the confidence that the device is going to capture what they're intending to say to their audience. Really, the goal with Dolby Voice is that everyone can just act much more naturally in the conference room.

And, a really great example of this would be two people in the conference room who are having a side conversation while someone's presenting. On a Dolby Voice solution, you can actually train your attention to the two people having the side conversation or the person presenting. And, in a normal conferencing solution, you can't do that. And, that's how we hear in everyday life.

Michael Krigsman: Where is this technology going in the next three years or so?

Andrew Border: I think people’s awareness of what a natural meeting experience can be like will rise dramatically. And, I think there’s an opportunity in combining visual communications, screen sharing, with a whole new sense of what engaging, immersive audio can be which will make the meeting experience much more like being there. And, I think that will be quite a powerful change in experience.

Michael Krigsman: Andrew Border, thank you so much!

Andrew Border: Thank you so much, sir!