Cisco Systems Inc. today added more accessibility features to its Webex video calling and collaboration platform.
One of the most prominent features of the platform is its automated captions, which rely on artificial intelligence-powered natural language processing to accurately transcribe spoken English words in over 100 languages. Cisco said it is expanding that capability significantly, with plans to add transcription for 13 additional spoken languages in the coming weeks.
Cisco says the expansion of automated captions will benefit people who are hard of hearing or need language assistance, as well as regular users who sit in a quiet place and don’t want to disturb others around them. Additionally, the feature is decoupled from Webex Assistant, meaning users won’t have to turn it on for a more accessible experience during video calls and presentations.
Another new feature coming in February is called Optimize, which Cisco describes as a smart audio feature. Users can choose to enhance their own voice and eliminate background noise when sitting in noisy environments.
Cisco said Optimize, which works using proprietary audio intelligence, has the effect of bringing the speaker closer to the microphone, without actually doing so. Likewise, users can optimize the voices of other speakers during a video call or presentation if they have trouble listening.
For customers using Webex to host large events such as webinars, Cisco says it will provide an “enhanced interpretation experience.” Webex already supports simultaneous and two-way, or delayed, interpretation in webinars with up to 10,000 attendees, and soon it will add more efficient controls for hosts, allowing them to better manage the service once a event begins.
Before a meeting starts, hosts can create audio channels in 110 languages and assign interpreters to the appropriate channel. With the new update, hosts will be able to create new channels and add interpreters once an event has already started, in case more attendees than expected join or they forget to include a language.
For participants, they simply choose their preferred language and they will be added to the correct channel. Users can also balance the audio between the original speaker and performer using a “sensitivity slider” to suit their preferences. Meanwhile, performers also get more control, with new features allowing them to change direction and coordinate the transfer to another performer.
A latest new update will allow Webex users to customize their interface during meetings and webinars to focus on specific attendees and presentations. To customize the Stage view, it will be as simple as dragging a video thumbnail onto the Stage. Alternatively, hosts and co-hosts can also choose to sync the scene to certain times during an event and control what appears for each attendee.
“The scene updates in real time, giving you more flexibility to create a tailored experience for attendees,” Cisco explained. “When the scene is out of sync, attendees can customize their meeting view using our advanced layout controls so they choose what they want to focus on.”
Cisco said today’s updates are the result of Webex adopting a culture of “accessibility thinking” last year, which began with the creation of its advisory board. Webex client on accessibility. Since then, Webex has implemented accessibility training and a standard requirement for all of its designers, engineers, and product management team members to ensure everyone understands how assistive technologies are used.