Corporate conference rooms are filled with collaboration tools that often fall just short of people's needs and expectations. The speaker phone is often hard to hear, and the projector has to be wheeled in from another room. The whiteboard is a simple tool, but there's no way to transfer information off of the board, aside from snapping a picture of it.
Cisco is trying to solve this problem with the Spark Board, an "all-in-one" digital whiteboard that serves as a projector, whiteboard, and audio-video conferencing tool. The new device is 100 percent cloud-connected, built on an updated Cisco Spark platform. It's the first video-capable device that Cisco has shipped that's only connected to the cloud.
Skype Translator, for example, is able to translate both spoken word and text, and uses machine learning to become more advanced the more it is used. After recording the speaker, Skype Translator uses a speech recognition system to convert that file into text, and relays it through a robotic voice.
Similarly, Google Translate offers speech-to-speech translation, as well as translation via images. Users simply point the camera in their phone at a piece of text, and get an instant translation in return.
The advantage speech-to-speech tools have over image translators is their capacity to handle instant speech translation, not just written text. For global businesses, the reality is that decisions will be made over the phone or in person, rather than by messenger. Skype and Google’s ability to process conversations in real time has the potential to help businesses make more accurate and effective decisions on a global scale more quickly.
“I said years ago that I don't want to call phone numbers; I want to call people.
Facebook Messenger lets you do just that because you can send a communications request to anyone on the platform without needing or knowing their phone number. Facebook Messenger has essentially become the white pages of the smartphone age.”
This month Walker introduced his company’s big play, a service called Switch that replaces workers’ desk phones and numbers with an app that works across whichever devices they want. If your boss calls your number, you can take it on your cellphone while walking from your car and then transfer it to your PC-connected headset at your desk. And when Switch connects to Google Apps it pulls in whatever data the apps have on the caller, such as e-mails, calendar meetings and shared files.
“Ooma offers a unique proposition: free domestic calling (you do need to pay $4-$6 per month for taxes and access to 911, depending on your state). The catch is that Ooma requires that you buy its hardware, the Telo box, to access the service.
The Ooma Telo is a flat electronic box with illuminated touch buttons on top. It plugs into your router and a phone plugs into it. It costs $150, or $210 with a cordless phone.”
“The Premier plan (for $ 10 a month) offers many additional features such free calling to Canada, voicemail-to-text, three-way conferencing, filtering of spam calls and more….
An international calling plan provides 500, 1,000 or an unlimited number of minutes of calling every month to landlines in over 60 countries worldwide — but just to mobile phones in 12 countries — for $5, $10 and $15 respectively.”
“Tim Tuttle, founder and CEO of Expect Labs, recently gave me a demo of the voice-only MindMeld app (later versions will include video) in a crowded room, and it worked surprisingly well.
“Our application analyzes and understands the last 10 minutes of your conversation to predict the information you may need in the next 10 seconds,” Tuttle told me. “We call this ‘continuous predictive modeling,’ and in some cases, it can find relevant information as you talk before you even need to ask for it.”
What’s that old adage about learning to walk before you can run? Yeah, that. When the voice-only iPad app launches next month, it will support up to eight people, but it won’t yet be ready to predict what might come up during your conversations. For now, the app will retrieve information based on your conversation that you trigger within the app as topics of interest come up. It will also pull in Facebook information when users sign up for the service. Other services like LinkedIn will eventually be integrated as well.”
"Skype was designed as a desktop program, and it’s never fully made itself smartphone-friendly. To be available for a call on Skype, you must sign into the program and keep it running. If you are signed off from Skype, no one can reach you.
Viber is constructed with the smartphone in mind. When you make a Viber call, your request is routed to a central Viber server. The server checks to see if the recipient of the call currently has Viber running in the background on his phone. If so, the phone starts ringing; if not, the recipient’s phone receives a push notification that essentially turns Viber on automatically, causing the phone to ring. Once your friend answers the call, audio is routed to the closest Viber server, ensuring the connection. Viber then attempts to create a direct Internet connection between you and your friend’s phone, rather than using the local Viber server. If you initiate the call through a Wi-Fi network and then move beyond the range of this network—say, walking from your office to your car—Viber will shift your call onto your mobile 3G network. All of this happens without the user noticing it. Viber says it uses high-definition audio, just like MP3, providing better audio quality than is available through GSM or a land line."
Time magazine (sub required) profiles Preet Bharara, the chief Federal cop in the South District of NYC, and how he is building on previous Wall Street prosecution waves credited to Rudy Giuliani and Eliot Sptizer.
What was really interesting to me in the article was the number of technology companies his targets were sharing insider information about/from (Apple, Intel, Nvidia, Flextronics).
I would also love to be a fly on the wall to see the technology behind the surveillance of VoIP, mobile and conference calls his office carries out and the fraud detection software and analytics, satellite, sensor, infiltration and other technology they have access to. For my next book!
Not a typo – 50 years! How rare is that to say about a tech vendor? And this one has migrated from emerging market to another every decade or so.
Neil Armstrong used a Plantronics headset when he spoke his famous words from the moon in 1969. Since then, Plantronics has navigated call centers spawned by toll - free calling, the growth of small and home offices, mobile communications and increasingly the move to Unified Communications.
I profiled them in a case study in my book and what was striking beyond the technology was the design focus and this quote from one of their executives:
“Headsets will continue to evolve as fashion accessories as we have seen with both watches and eyewear . . . we make decisions on which ones to wear based on how we feel or choose to express ourselves at that moment. I believe headsets are destined for the same cultural evolution.”
I have attached the full case study from the book below if you want read more about the company.
The Economist on alternatives if the legal wrangling over Skype persists
“For Macintosh users, iChat is everything you would expect of Apple—slick, simple and with stunning graphics. Its voice quality is even better than Skype’s. The video chat feature lets you set up multi-person conferences on the fly. And it is less of a bandwidth hog than Skype. All you need is an internet connection and a video camera, plus an account with one of the more popular instant-messaging services, such as AIM, Google Talk, Jabber or MobileMe—and, of course, a Macintosh computer running Mac OS X.
The choice for Windows users is wider, though few of the products are as polished as iChat. SightSpeed comes close. It is delightfully simple to set up and use, and provides excellent 30 frames-a-second video with crisp audio and little delay. You can also send video e-mail and text chat with its built in instant-messaging service. And it works on Macs as well as PCs.
If making “SkypeOut” calls to landline and mobile phones—as well as making free voice and video calls from computer to computer—is important to you, then look no further than Gizmo5. This is identical to Skype in most respects save one: it uses open standards for managing calls, though its compression algorithms and client software are as proprietary as Skype’s. However, by embracing the popular internet-signalling standard called Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Gizmo5’s free software can work seamlessly with other SIP-based networks, including the phone companies’.”