Webex gets a facelift with noise cancellation, transcriptions, but Cisco says more to come

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Microsoft real time captions in online meetings
As of February, users will be able to participate in their native language and get localized, real-time transcription of the active speaker, available in 10+ languages. Source: Cisco.

On Tuesday, Cisco’s Jeetu Patel didn’t waver from a statement he made back in August about the big changes coming to the Webex platform and its mission to make virtual interactions 10 times better than in-person experiences.

Patel, senior vice-president and general manager, Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit, boasted about how the company poured approximately $1 billion over the past several years into developing AI capabilities. Those investments are now paying off, “in a big way,” said Patel, while acknowledging Cisco’s other recent acquisitions aimed at improving its collaboration portfolio, such as Modcam and voicea. 

“I have never seen a team execute at this level of velocity,” Patel said during a virtual briefing with reporters and analysts Tuesday. “If you think about the core identity of the product, the capabilities we’re going to build, they’re going to be around making sure that we actually level the playing field and become much more inclusive.”

 

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Cisco Live: Tackling the pandemic, racism, and technological challenges

 

And this ties into that 10x promise. Patel says that an upcoming feature called “Meeting Templates” gives everyone a chance to speak and puts time limits on meetings with quick syncs. Those types of opportunities don’t always present themselves in a physical boardroom, and that’s when voices can be lost or ignored.

“You can’t mute people in a physical setting,” he said, noting how a feature like this would also be great for a debate stage.

Here’s a full rundown of the latest updates, plus the new features that are just on the horizon.

In the app today:

  • Noise cancellation and speech enhancement: Webex automatically detects and suppresses common noises.
  • Transcriptions and closed captioning: Remove the need for extensive note-taking. Transcripts are searchable, so team members who miss a meeting can quickly catch up.
  • Highlights and action items: Webex Assistant will create these on a users’ verbal command.
  • Enhanced video layouts: Users can change their video layout with slider controls.
  • Webex Huddle: Quickly call specific team members into a spontaneous meeting with a single click. No scheduling is required.

Coming soon:

  • In-meeting gestures: Give a “thumbs up” with your hand, and Cisco’s AI software translates your motion into a thumbs up on the screen for all to see. Cisco says this is an industry first, coming in CY 2021.
  • Immersive sharing: Users can share a presentation, video or application as a dynamic background with your video overlayed. Coming in CY 2021.
  • Real-time translation: As of February, users will be able to participate in their native language and get localized, real-time transcription of the active speaker, available in 10+ languages. Each meeting attendee can choose the language they want without impacting other users. Languages include English, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Dutch, and Japanese.
  • Save and share meeting artifacts: Meeting artifacts and recordings are instantly saved within the Webex app. View recordings in the Webex taskbar or within the content section of 1:1 and group spaces.
  • Huge meetings: Users will be able to host even up to 100,000 people using the new Webex Events native live streaming coming later this month.
  • Meeting templates: Gives everyone a chance to speak with round table templates and more. Put time limits on your meetings with quick syncs. 

That’s not all

At its WebexOne event, Cisco also announced an expansion of its lineup of collaboration devices. Three new devices are joining its Webex device portfolio: Webex Desk Camera, Webex Desk Hub, and Webex Desk.

The Webex Desk Camera is designed for both the home and the office, says Cisco, and allows users to mute and unmute the microphone with a simple gesture. More importantly, IT teams can manage the Desk Camera thanks to features designed with the remote work era in mind.

Next up are Webex Desk Hub and Webex Desk, both of which are in preview. The Webex Desk Hub falls under a new category of devices, according to Cisco. It’s a portable solution powerful enough to provide high-quality video meetings and phone calls and allows users to pair, charge, and connect all the things they’ve come to rely on for productivity and collaboration, such as their own camera, headset, display, laptop and mobile. 

Webex Desk is a competitively priced device similar to its big sister, the Webex Desk Pro, and allows users to run presentations and host meetings and features a camera, microphone and speakers.

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