When we launched Dolby® Voice™, our new conference call technology, last fall, we knew that it provided a much better audio experience than typical conference calls: the sound quality is higher; each voice comes from a separate space, helping you distinguish speakers; and much of the background noise is filtered out. The experience sounds and feels like an in-person meeting.

But the point of a conference call isn’t to have a great audio experience. It’s to communicate, collaborate, and get work done. So we conducted some ambitious tests to determine how well people can perform tasks in three situations: when they’re meeting face-to-face, in a Dolby Voice conference, or on a conventional conference call.

The results show that study participants were far more effective and efficient when they met using a Dolby Voice conference call than when they were on a conventional conference call. Not surprisingly, in-person meetings were the most efficient.

How we tested

We performed our tests with seven groups of four participants. All were native English speakers. The group included a mix of men and women of different ages. The participants were split into competing teams to help motivate them to work quickly and accurately. Each participant alternated between reading a list of words and listening to and identifying those words as their teammate read them. We measured the teams’ task performance by the number of words they identified, the amount of time they took to do so, and the number of errors they committed.

On average, participants on Dolby Voice calls achieved 68 percent effectiveness, while subjects on conventional calls were able to manage only 41 percent effectiveness. Participants in face-to-face meetings scored 91 percent effectiveness.

Task Efficiency - 2_small

It wasn’t hard to pinpoint the probable cause of the problems with conventional conference calls. We asked each of the participants about any problems they had hearing or making themselves understood during the testing. A full 74 percent of participants complained of problems with the conventional conference calls, while only 41 percent reported problems with Dolby Voice conference calls. Again, face-to-face meetings were best on this score, with only 13 percent of participants reporting problems.

Task Efficiency - 3

We weren’t surprised that Dolby Voice proved to be a more effective means of communication than traditional conference calls, but we were surprised by how much more effective it was in these tests. The results—which are statistically significant—are a strong validation of what we hoped to achieve with this technology: to help people collaborate more efficiently.

Dolby Voice makes it easier to determine who’s talking because each voice seems to come from a different point in space. We’ve raised the overall audio quality of conference calls and put in sophisticated noise filters to minimize the sound of people typing or rustling papers while they’re on a call. And, unlike conventional conference calls, we allowed more than one person to speak at once, meaning that participants can signal when they agree with a point or want to add something to the discussion.

Dolby Voice frees people’s brains to concentrate on what’s really important in a conference call—the other participants and the content of the meeting. The bottom line is this: It’s a whole lot easier to have an intelligent, productive conversation when you don’t have to struggle just to understand what’s being said.