With such rapid change and serious global health challenges, some of you have asked, “What’s up with BabbleLabs?” This is a note to give an update and share some thoughts on how the world is changing.
First of all, everyone at BabbleLabs is doing well and working hard on developing and delivering remarkable speech software. All our teams, with groups in Silicon Valley, Warsaw, Gdansk and Edinburgh, have gone virtual, joining the handful of “Babblians" who normally work from home offices. Our inherently distributed team already has plenty of experience in working through video conference, calls, chat and email, so it doesn’t change our interactions very much – in fact, we probably do more small-talk and joking around than ever to lighten the mood. In addition, our speech enhancement products – especially the new Clear Edge product line – is now fully functional and tuned to make the world’s best audio experiences for work-from-home and mobile devices. We have virtually eliminated the sounds from the kitchen, fans, yelling kids, barking dogs and crying babies. We all love our families, but we prefer to keep them out of our business calls :-). This worldwide uptick in demand for work-from-home solutions has created new urgent opportunities for our approach and our software products and has ignited our purpose. We have never felt more driven to enhance understanding.
We have increased our global network of customers and partners, building and optimizing breakthrough speech solutions for enterprise conferencing at home and at work, contact centers, video enhancement and rich speech UIs. The last few weeks have included a number of milestone product deliveries to our leading customers and we expect the flow of innovations to accelerate. In fact, in some areas we are aggressively recruiting new people to join BabbleLabs, even though they must initially work remotely.
We can anticipate long-term impacts for the COVID-19 crisis, several of which may lead to a better world. Here are some thoughts:
- More distributed work: While work-from-home is not ideal, we are rapidly getting more productive. This means that we are leveraging more remote connectivity for product and service invention, development, productization, marketing, selling and support. We may also be switching more often and more seamlessly between our personal and professional personas.
- New applications in public health and telemedicine: COVID-19 will likely leave some deep memories and scars. I believe we will all be more attuned to our public health infrastructure and preparedness for crises with wide health impact. The crisis will likely force the health system (and patients) to get better at leveraging technology for remote health monitoring and interactions with health professionals. All our tools for “work from home” are likely to apply to “health from home” too.
- New roles for remote and local speech: All our attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19 has made us aware of who we visit and what we touch every day. As we interact with all kinds of high-tech and low-tech devices, we should be asking, “Could this work better and safer with speech controls?” Similarly, we are gradually waking up to all forms of tele-presences, from the ordinary voice call, to video conferencing to augmented reality environments that let us sense, communicate and collaborate in a realistic version of the world. The visual cues are important, but for humans, the authenticity and nuance of voice will stay central.
- More attention of the health impact of travel: I love to travel and believe that relationships often benefit enormously from face-to-face contact. However, concerns about spreading infections, (as well as concerns about the carbon footprint of air travel) may make us all more thoughtful about our trips, perhaps favoring fewer, longer trips over short jaunts.
- Greater international understanding: While every country and culture is responding differently to the immediate health challenge, it is also a great unifier. COVID-19 has ignored boundaries and language and created, unfortunately, an intense common experience for everyone on Earth. That shared challenge, together with the need to communicate not just from office to office, but home to home, pulls us together in many ways, emphasizing what we share and what we can do together, over what separates us.
Most of all, we are deeply concerned about human tragedies, personal distress and disruption of lives that has overtaken this intimately-connected world. We do not know how quickly we all will return to traditional live and work. We all pray for health, understanding and peace.