Cisco to buy BabbleLabs to help boost user experience on its Webex platform




In an effort meant to help users of web-conferencing solutions control unwanted noise during virtual meetings – be it from barking dogs, lawn mowers, a car alarm or sirens – Cisco has announced its intent to acquire privately held BabbleLabs, based in Campbell, California.

The announcement by Cisco comes at a time when work is increasingly becoming what you do, not where you go. And with this reality, unwanted background noise has become one of the most common and frustrating distractions in today’s work environment.

BabbleLabs uses advanced AI (Artificial Intelligence) techniques to distinguish human speech from unwanted noise, enhancing the quality of communications and conferencing applications. BabbleLabs goes beyond existing noise suppression technology solutions by: distinguishing speech from background noise; removing background noise in real-time; and enhancing the voice to elevate communication, regardless of language.

According to a Cisco global survey focused on the future of work, 98 percent of workers say they experience frustration from distractions during video meetings when working from home. Two of the top five frustrations called out are about background noise – either from other participants or their own side of the call.

The soon-to-be released, this survey covers the changing working environment as a result of COVID 19. In July 2020, Cisco surveyed 1,569 qualified participants globally – knowledge workers, IT, HR and facilities professionals at small to larger enterprise companies representing all seniority levels from China, APAC, EMEA, and North America.

With the addition of BabbleLabs, Cisco will bring native noise removal capability to its entire Collaboration portfolio. Initially, Cisco will focus on integrating BabbleLabs to deliver a best-in-class audio experience to Webex Meetings users – wherever they are and however they connect via the Webex application (whether via a conference room or mobile device). A great user experience is also a secure user experience. BabbleLabs complements Cisco’s focus on secure and private collaboration by processing noise removal 100 percent at the source where the noise happens (on the client side). In doing so, BabbleLabs aligns to strict data policies that underpin Cisco’s culture of security by design.

“A great meeting experience starts with great audio,” said Jeetu Patel, the senior VP and GM for Cisco 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, CEO and co-founder 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.”

The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of Cisco’s 2021 finacial year. Upon completion of the acquisition, the BabbleLabs team will join the Cisco Collaboration Group, led by Javed Khan, the senior VP and GM, which is part of the Cisco Security and Applications Business, led by Jeetu Patel.

The BabbleLabs acquisition builds on Cisco’s investments in AI technology and talent over the last three years – all designed to make collaboration more intelligent, secure, effective and productive. Cisco is focused on every phase of work and meetings. This includes: before meetings by serving insights into people attending the meeting, or being able to see who’s on before you join and more; during meetings through optimized audio and video, blurred or custom background across any OS, touchless sharing of ideas and files, automated note taking, live transcription, and more; as well as after meetings by automatically sending meeting notes with spoken action items.

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