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Exploring the intricacies of call quality with Poly APAC CTO Bill Zeng

By Marcus Wong - 18 Feb 2020

Poly Bill Zeng Interview

Bill Zeng, Chief Technology Officer & Director, Sales Engineering, Asia Pacific, Poly (Image: Poly)

  • What are some of the key innovations in the audio world today?

If anything, today, we are living a golden age of innovation. From the time when the first Bluetooth-enabled wireless headphones entered the industry, we’ve (now) broken into the true wireless arena.

Here’s an interesting fact: It’s the sixteenth anniversary since Dr. Jaap Haartsen was issued the patent for Bluetooth. You may know him as the ‘Father of Bluetooth’. Jaap is in both the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the Consumer Technology (CT) Hall of Fame, and he is our senior expert on wireless systems as Chief Scientist of Wireless Technologies at Poly.

It is this spirit of invention that fuels our efforts to solve some of today’s most pressing communications challenges in open office and contact centre environments, to remove friction and to make people’s lives easier no matter what they do and where they are.

 

  • Ever since the introduction of FaceTime, video conferencing products have been diminished some. How do you stand out?

If it’s just day-to-day video calls to your family and friends, consumer video conferencing apps we have on our mobile phones should suffice.

If you’re using it for work, FaceTime or WhatsApp may not cut it, especially when very important decisions need to be made. Features like scheduling, document sharing, call recording, or the ability to connect more than a handful of individuals to the same meeting are important productivity features for business video users.

At Poly, we’ve built an industry-leading platform agnostic video endpoint, our newest Poly Studio X series bars for huddle rooms. It is based on open standards, can run native Zoom Room, and lets you join your meetings without the need to connect your laptop, all in one easy-to-use package.

Looking ahead, as we find better ways to transmit more data over long distances with technologies like 5G coming into the mainstream, we’re positioning ourselves to take advantage of an expected boom in 4K video conferencing and also infinite whiteboarding.

Poly Studio X (Image: Poly)

 

  • Noise-cancelling: What are its implementation difficulties, and how much better can we get?

Take Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) headsets. On planes, they’re effective, but those same headsets may not be ideal for and office environment. High levels of ANC over long periods can also make you feel tired, contributing to the kind of fatigue you feel at the end of a long day.

At the end of the day, the best noise-cancelling, in our opinion, is something that works when and where you need it to. You may want to tune out all the distractions in your office, but you still need to be able to hear your own voice when you’re on a call.

 

  • What about other technologies such as noise-isolation or beam forming?

Beam forming is an efficient way to isolate unwanted noise. By using multiple microphones, we can configure them in an array to form a directional response or ‘beam’ pattern that is designed to be more sensitive to sound coming from one or more specific directions than sound coming from other directions. For example, our Poly Studio and Studio X are equipped with multi-element beamforming microphone arrays to provide Polycom NoiseBlock and Acoustic Fence technology to keep noise out.

Also, Poly just announced our next-generation NoiseBlock AI. With current-generation NoiseBlock, when the system detects unwanted noise such as keyboard strokes, it mutes sound altogether. NoiseBlock AI can filter out noise while preserving human speech. Imagine one person typing and another talking, NoiseBlock AI allows you to hear the person talking while blocking the keyboard noise as the same time.

 

  • When we talk about a good video conferencing experience, what’s more important – hardware or software?

Both are important and integral to one another, though the rapid advancement of software development over the past decade has enabled us to do more with software than we could ever do with hardware alone.

If anything though, thanks to the innovations in both hardware and software, end-user expectations have never been higher. As technology becomes more complex in general, there’s a corresponding demand in solutions that are easy to understand, install, and use.

At the same time, there are customers who demand features on top of features. It goes without saying that we take these insights and feed them back into our research and development programs, to help innovate and refine our products. That’s how the Poly Studio and Studio X came about; these plug-and-play video conferencing bars take no more than a couple of minutes coming out of the box and to the user making their first call.

 

  • What do you think of all the 5G talk we’ve been seeing recently?

5G is going to be a huge enabler for video conferencing. The additional bandwidth means that 4K video becomes a reality. 4K contents brings many groundbreaking use cases, such as help healthcare training institutions make available access to medical training resources both live and pre-recorded, at greater detail, such as how the Lion Foundation taps on 4K content to train other doctors; allow agile product development across multiple continent with real-time CAD design; facilitate remote AR/VR diagnosis of complex machinery.

 

  • How then is 3D audio changing the way we record and listen?

Poly sees huge potential for 3D audio in video conferencing – we believe that ‘distance’ shouldn’t be an excuse for sub-par collaboration experience. Typically, in a video call, when multiple people are speaking it’s difficult to understand anyone. With the Polycom 3D Voice you can easily distinguish individual speakers leading to improved lively, interactive conversations.