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AI technology at the heart of new audio solutions for the workforce


By Jesper Kock, Vice President of Research and Development, EPOS

Strategy Analytics claims that by 2022 almost half (43%) of the workforce is expected to be more mobile – and audio technology will play a crucial role in facilitating a more flexible, functionable working environment for the future workforce.

Businesses need to think about their future; according to Gartner, by 2030 the demand for flexible working will increase by 30% due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce. This means that those who are unable to offer technology solutions to optimise flexibility will potentially lose out on talent.

Implementing AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already disrupting traditional practices and business models – from integrated voice assistants to adaptive audio. But what does this really mean for improving working experiences?

Increasingly, products are becoming advanced and information-rich because of connections to the Cloud and IoT. As with many sectors, data is fast becoming the currency of the digital age, allowing businesses to apply unique and tailored support solutions.

For organisations who understand their customers’ data, they can offer support that makes a real difference on an individual level – whilst also setting new standards for customer service and experience. The audio sector has progressed to the extent where products can adapt the sound profile for each user based on sophisticated responses to specific environments, and soon these products will be reacting to how users engage with them as well.

AI’s role becomes even greater with data being exchanged between devices. The correct use of AI enables complex decision-making by machines, meaning that ultimately, they will be able to anticipate a user’s behaviour. Soon, headsets will become solely data-driven. One’s headset will become the interface between different technology ecosystems to even communicate with them on behalf of the user. What comes next for AI solutions in audio is exciting, soon it will be possible for an AI-empowered device to develop a working knowledge of an individual user, this data in turn will enable the device to adapt to situations and make decisions based on constantly developing understanding of the users’ preferences.

Adjusting the task

AI is a relatively new concept and technology, having only entered mainstream awareness within the last five years – yet what many don’t realise is that when thinking about AI, it isn’t dissimilar to the human learning experience. For instance, when a parent teaches their child to ride a bike you begin with the basics. After instructing them, they try things out for themselves, after which you give them constructive feedback and put them back on the right track, e.g. making sure they don’t go too fast or ride out onto busy streets.

We start in just the same way with an AI neural network (either a system software or hardware that works similar to the tasks performed by neurons of human brain) – we teach it about our sound quality and expected performance in our products. Then we teach the neural network what we want to achieve – and consequently, the system becomes self-learning, producing solutions and details that we couldn’t have otherwise programmed ourselves. However, when developing this technology, there is not just one neural network, but a whole array to work with, focusing on different areas.

Efficiency and productivity
AI will help produce a more tailored and personalised sound experience for audio users. With previous tech on the market, there might have been 5-10 pre-configured settings that AI could swap between. However, these settings would have already been decided in a test lab before it reached the user.

Now, the AI interacts with user surroundings adapts accordingly. While we might all think we are unique, from a data perspective, countless people will have experienced and demonstrated similar symptoms and patterns before when it comes to their preferred service. AI solutions look for patterns in data and, when a correlation is identified, it is able to predict the way you deal with today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

Recent breakthroughs have marked a new phase in the audio sector. The introduction of AI in audio headsets has enabled them to intelligently block out the interruptive external sounds, meaning users enjoy crystal clear sound regardless of environment.

On the horizon

The next stage we expect to see will be where sound quality depends on its user, with AI reacting to different preferences and adapting according to how it’s used. In years to come it will be used for authentication and even to monitor and support users’ health and wellbeing.

Much of the AI currently within market is still in its infancy, one day we can expect AI solutions to provide input on other areas of our lives. For instance, reacting to user’s speech: responding to tone of voice, the words used, and identifying if users are tired, angry or anxious. Your device will be able to identify your behaviour patterns and as a result, provide guidance. For instance, letting you know that you are showing signs of stress and recommending changes to your behavior in order to benefit your health.

This is the world of biometrics, eventually it will help employees navigate and become more comfortable with our tech driven workplaces. Biometric monitoring like this could be used for anything from ensuring people are active enough in a working day, taking breaks from their desks and taking long enough lunch breaks, as well as monitoring tone of voice in conference calls. These solutions will help both employers and employees intervene, react and prevent stress from impacting quality of work performance and before it encroaches on work/life balance. Ultimately, a happy workforce is a strong workforce and the benefits of biometrics will help to dramatically improve HR systems in all sectors when it comes to people management and employee retention rates.

[Image credit:Petr Machacek for Unsplash]

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