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Krisp strips out background noise from desktop voice and video chats

The rise of voice technology
TechRepublic’s Karen Roby and ZDNet’s Greg Nichols talk about a recent survey that finds a surprising number of consumers believe that keyboards are on a downward spiral and voice technology is looking to claim its spot.

In January, I described a demonstration, which Qualcomm offered at its Snapdragon Summit, that showed how AI could outperform multiple microphone-based noise cancellation with only a single microphone. The demonstration impressed me because it focused on a problem that has been with us since the origins of the telephone itself. But the technology used for that demonstration was not the only such effort we’ve seen at eliminating background noise. Today, the company behind Krisp introduced its PC-based offering for voice and video calls that virtually eliminates background noise.

Krisp works with a wide array of conference and video calling services and takes advantage of the open device architecture of the PC and Mac to stand in as an audio input or output. The former keeps tabs on the audio emanating from the talker, while the latter does the same for audio heard by the listener. Working with no noticeable lag, it can filter out background sounds such as sirens and barking dogs. Krisp can even filter out sudden, unforeseen sounds such as claps, but doing so results in a small volume drop for the speaker’s voice. Krisp also claims to benefit to those working in relatively quiet environments by enhancing voice quality.

While these types of technologies often follow a licensing model, Krisp is taking its offering direct to consumers. A subscription is required for those who wish to protect against the potential embarrassment of calling from a location subject to audio distractions. For these users, Krisp costs $20 per month for individuals and slides to $5 per month for teams. The company behind Krisp is also offering a referral promotion that can earn users up to six months of usage credit.

The pricing will likely prove prohibitive for those who only occasionally find themselves amidst sirens and the like. For some early adopters, though, Krisp may be able to pay for itself if it saves the subscriber the cost and inconvenience of finding a quiet enough space for a PC-based call, to say nothing of the risk of being misheard. And while there is no mobile option today, Krisp’s developers recognize the importance of such an option. They are working on an alternative solution since the major mobile operating systems don’t allow choosing virtual speakers and microphones as MacOS and Windows do.

Of course, Krisp is already one of many solutions that use the power of machine learning to practically eliminate distracting background noise from calls. Even as they reach beyond voice calls, the conferencing apps that Krisp works with will surely pursue or license options; over time, this kind of enhancement may be baked into the operating system or supporting chipsets. Krisp’s developers have a number of other improvements related to voice and calls in the queue that are designed to keep it above the baseline. Its core offering, though, addresses an issue that not only predates the smartphone, but which has been seeking a solution since the development of the phone booth.

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