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Caltech Picks ‘Duet’ Speakerphone for Online Meetings

Device provides advanced echo cancellation and noise suppression technology

California Institute of Technology has purchased a large number of Phoenix Audio Technologies’ Duet PCS (MT202-PCO) universal service bus desktop speakerphone systems.

Phoenix is a developer of audio communication solutions for voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), Web conferencing, distance learning and video conferencing applications, and its Duet units have been deployed to strengthen the audio/video communication abilities between Caltech’s remote collaborative teams of scientists and staff who are currently participating in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory project.

The LIGO project, which is focused on searching for gravitational waves, involves about 850 participants who are based around the world and who actively take part in meetings over the Internet.

Because of the geographical limitations involved, it is not possible for the entire team to be in the same location at the same time. However, Caltech has its “Enabling Virtual Organizations” system that is an application combining audio, video, chat, whiteboard, screen-sharing and meeting reservations so that distributed teams can virtually meet and collaborate.

The EVO is primarily a tool for large academic research projects, and Caltech received funding from the National Science Foundation for the LIGO scientific collaboration to improve LIGO communications between the teams. Because an element of the system is it be able to produce clear audio quality, yet still be portable and cost-effective, Caltech turned to Phoenix’s Duet unit, which provides advanced echo cancellation and noise suppression technology.

“As the Principle Investigator on the NSF award to improve EVO for LIGO, I have the responsibility for clear communications and direction between the original EVO team and the LIGO scientific collaboration,” said James Kent Blackburn, a senior scientist on the project.The collaboration meets virtually each week, and conducts anywhere from 75 to 100 meetings, he said. The individuals involved often rely on laptops to access those meetings, but in many cases the hardware available in the laptops simply does not do a good enough job when it comes to echo suppression and noise reduction, he added.

“That’s where the Phoenix Duet units come in,” Blackburn said. The Duet’s are small and compact and they have built-in echo cancellation and noise reduction, he said, adding “We just plug them into our USB ports in our desktops or laptops. When we use the Duet unit along with the EVO system, the Duet significantly improves the quality of the sound by removing the echo and the feedback.”