During Covid-19, video conferences have become the most used communication tool in all sectors of human activity. This trend is unlikely to change in the future.
Video conferencing is changing the way of communication, collaboration and creative thinking. It is a form of connecting people, often from different parts of the region, country or world, and its use can not only reduce the time associated with travelling, but also improve the balance between work and private life. Video conferencing has begun to serve us to increase productivity and employee satisfaction.
Meeting at a distance usually makes communication and cooperation more efficient and gives the entire meeting a fixed form and order. Although video conferencing places higher demands on the discipline, preparation and overall flow of remote meetings, it automatically allows for a more accurate agenda, goals and planning among contributors before, during and after the meeting.
The goal of distance communication should be to make it as natural and intelligible for all participants as possible. In this case, high demands are placed on sound, which conveys the majority of shared information, including important subliminal sensations, such as the tone or colour of the voice, which are directly associated with the emotional side of the ongoing communication.
At this point, we come across the often neglected fact of suitable conference technology with the right acoustic properties, which are important not only for the listener to have a high-quality reception with a minimum of parasitic sound reflections, but it should also be heard intelligibly through the technology.
Poor acoustics in the room, reducing the quality of the participants’ speech, logically worsen collaboration and increase the demands on the participants’ concentration. Although the human brain is able to deal with unwanted reflections or noises, it is also forced to spend a greater amount of energy on such communication. Such spaces evoke negative emotions in people and signs of fatigue or exhaustion.
Spaces for a hybrid way of working should not only be designer meeting rooms. It is necessary to think about their acoustic properties. The acoustic property of the space is defined by a basic parameter, which is the “reverberation time”. Simply put, this is the time in which the space is able to dampen the impulse by a certain level.
The optimal reverberation time for conference rooms is not set as an exact value that should be the same for all rooms. This time varies depending on the size of the room. For example, for the purposes of remote hybrid communication, it ranges from 0.4 to 0.9 s.
Meeting this parameter usually means that almost all the sound energy in the form of spoken speech is transmitted directly to the listener or to the microphone without parasitic reflections that significantly impair the intelligibility of the spoken content. It is possible to measure intelligibility exactly as the STI value, which tells us on a scale of 0 to 100% what quality of the spoken word we will perceive in the room.
The way to improve the acoustic properties in the space is diverse and will be unique in each space. The key to success is to use quality acoustic materials in the right places. In this section, we can advise and find the best possible solution, which will not only be functional, but at the same time attractive in design.
We may come across the opinion that modern technology can deal with some unwanted audio artefacts, such as through noise suppression. It is of course possible to a certain extent, but even these technologies have their limits, which are conditional on the acoustic properties of the space. We must not forget that the human ear is not equipped with any similar modern technology.
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