Engineering new premium audio applications for the future of unified communications.
Director of Research and Development Jesper Kock explained how headsets have emerged as a key technical and personal interface in unified communications environments. Jesper envisions the headset as an intelligent part of the IT ecosystems of the future, including merging characteristics with wearable technologies, which could contribute to the “context aware” computing environments of the future.
Premium Audio as a Technical/Personal Interface
According to Jesper, the category has migrated away from its status as a pure peripheral and transitioned to an intrinsic business communications tool, which can be leveraged to increase productivity and address issues in the workplace. In the professional office space, headsets have transcended the accessory category and have grown into complex pieces of IT equipment, which can transform the business of communication.
“The headset is probably one of the most underestimated pieces of professional equipment of modern, mobile office environments,” said Jesper. “With unified communications (UC) being a major ongoing trend in the industry, using headsets is simply no longer an option for businesses, but a necessity. They play an important role as a technical interface, ensuring a seamless interaction with the company’s IT environment. Beyond this, they also act as a personal interface; for example, when communicating directly with a client.” Both of these elements are vital for the user experience.
Employees must often conduct a great percentage of their business through these devices, all day long. Audio quality and wearing comfort become a more serious priority in these situations, dramatically influencing both the user and the customer experience.
“Companies need to take headsets into account even in the early planning phases of their UC roll-outs, since it can impact the adoption and success of the entire UC deployment. Spending millions on a solution only to scrimp on headsets is akin to buying a Ferrari and then fitting it with budget tires,” noted Jesper.
The Headset as a Sophisticated IT Device
Headsets must comply with thousands of global standards to serve as this technical interface with a network’s IT system. They must be compliant with softphone providers, and be compatible with mobile operating systems and devices from iOS to Android, from USB to classic desk phones. Sennheiser maintains highly specialized teams dedicated to sound engineering, embedded software development, mechanical and hardware engineering, as well as system architecture. More than half of the company’s R&D engineers are dedicated to developing software.
For the devices to succeed as a personal interface in an office environment, users must feel as if they are in the same room as the person they are speaking to, transmitting the clearest and most natural sound possible. For an audio manufacturer, this requires as much focus on the headset’s microphone technology as goes into the speaker technology.
Headsets as “Wearables”: The Future of Premium Audio?
Sennheiser sees a potential progression toward the headset as “wearable technology,” since many employees physically wear their headsets through the entirety of their workday.
“In the future, we might see that professional headsets measure physiological stats, such as heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, muscle tension and even brain waves,” Jesper surmises. “Using the data gathered, a big data environment could work to optimize the office environment and the individual experience of the user.
“Whatever other capabilities our engineers pursue, the communications experience will still be the most important feature in headset design for the foreseeable future,” Japser confirms. “Sennheiser is proud to drive the category toward a more intrinsic, productive and valued technological role in the greater scheme of the unified communications paradigm. We’re excited to see where these technological trends will lead us.”
Download this article [PDF], Headset Is No Longer Just a Headset