Imagine being able to hold a call with your fellow colleagues or family from around the world, have an interesting conversation about a project or family event, and as well as listening to the call, be able to replay any part of the conversation, listen to any individual thread, add comments, spoken, written or smartboard, as things happen or retrospectively to any part of the call.
The core verbol voice interface is a timeline of ‘utterances’ which are continuous chunks of speech each recorded from a single speaker. Multiple speakers from different parts of the world, connected by internet or regular phone, can record their individual utterances at the same time. The timeline is coloured to help visualise the individual speakers and the length of their contributions.
What is unique, is how participants in the conversation relate to this timeline. Verbol voice effectively creates a whole new mode and category of interaction. The participants don't all have to be at the ‘front’ of the timeline, and you can see visually where others are in the timeline. In a ‘normal’ phone call, all participants are locked in synchronous interaction in the present moment, i.e. at the leading edge of the activity stream.
‘Conference’ mode feels like a ‘normal’ conference call. However, by using the controls, or merely talking over someone, there is an automatic switch to ‘chat’ mode. This allows ‘side conversations’ to happen on parallel ‘tracks’. Indeed, it is possible to (re)join in conversations and reply (via voice), a bit like threaded email.
conference mode chat mode auto-chat mode
There is a shared smartboard which is also recorded and played back in synch with the voice conversation. The diagram below is a screenshot from a development call in which Mark is pointing to and explaining some code in the smartboard.
The threaded view zooms in on the utterances and shows reply messages which are spoken while listening to playback, displaying them both in the time sequence in which they were recorded and in the context in which they were spoken, with playback in either order and “hypertime” links to jump between sequential and interleaved playback.
The replay of the ‘utterances’ is also different. There is a ‘speed catch up’ mode, which is faster and usefully with ‘dead space’ stripped out. Based on our tests, 130% playback speed preserves the ability to clearly understand what has been said, with undiminished comprehension. To scan or skim, you can replay at up to 240% speed. The voice tone is adjusted to compensate for the speed increase.
The system has the inbuilt capability to individually manage each speaker's voice data, and to create your own managed instance of the system for security. This makes a complete and welcome change from your existing unencrypted phone call or voice system.
Verbol voice offers a new paradigm for voice interaction. It makes sense once you use it and grasp the difference. The development team use it themselves daily to coordinate, using conference calls, voicechat updates in between and the myriad of other features like smartboard, editing and messaging.
This is just the beginning of what can be done today with verbol voice technology developed by Family Systems Ltd. With such a step forward in voice communications, the benefits to a whole range of people, professions and companies can be seen. We wish to work with early adopters running your own verbol voice system for your team or family group.
Thanks to Martin Geddes independent industry expert who inspired this article with his comments at Introducing Verbol voice: A radical take on hypervoice