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    Monday, June 10, 2024

    Nokia CEO Makes World's First 'Immersive' Phone Call

    Pekka Lundmark, Nokia's President and CEO, and Stefan Lindström (Finland's Ambassador of Digitalization and New Technologies) make the first "immersive" cellular call using the new IVAS codec. (Image credit: Nokia)

    Smartphones are increasingly becoming our AI-powered assistants, but their voice call quality has barely changed in years. Well, Nokia wants to fix that – and it’s claiming to have made the “world’s first immersive voice and audio call” using a new codec.

    The phone call was made using a new IVAS (Immersive Voice and Audio Services) codec, which is part of the incoming ‘5G Advanced’ standard. According to Nokia’s blog post, the codec creates a “three-dimensional sound experience” that makes chats feel “more lifelike and engaging”.

    Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark made a phone call using a new technology called "immersive audio and video" that improves the quality of a call with three-dimensional sound, making interactions more lifelike, the company said on Monday.

    "We have demonstrated the future of voice calls," said Lundmark, who was also present in the room when the first 2G call was made in 1991.

    Current smartphone calls are monophonic which compresses audio elements together and sound flatter and less detailed, but the new technology will bring 3D audio where a caller will hear everything as if they were there with the other person.

    "It is the biggest leap forward in the live voice calling experience since the introduction of monophonic telephony audio used in smartphones and PCs today," said Jenni Lukander, president of Nokia Technologies.

    The call was held with Stefan Lindström, Finland's Ambassador of Digitalisation and New Technologies.

    "This is now becoming standardised ... so the network providers, chipset manufacturers, handset manufacturers can begin to implement it in their products," Lukander said in an interview.

    Nokia made the call using a regular smartphone over a public 5G network.

    Apart from person to person immersive calls, this can be used in conference calls where voices of participants can be separated based on their spatial locations, said Jyri Huopaniemi, head of audio research at Nokia Technologies.

    A vast majority of smartphones have at least two microphones with which this technology can be implemented by transmitting in real time the spatial characteristics of a call, the executives said.

    The technology is part of the upcoming 5G Advanced standard and Nokia aims to get licensing opportunities with the technology which would likely take a few years to be available widely.

    Nokia and its 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) partners, who have co-developed the new IVAS codec, clearly don’t envisage it being solely for smartphones and audio calls. 

    On the 3GPP site, some of the use cases include “multi-stream teleconferencing, XR conversational services, and user-generated live and pre-produced content streaming”, alongside more conversational phone calls. It also sees “corresponding applications in the AR/MR space".

    In other words, this is about taking voice calls (and conference calls) into a more spatial, realistic future where it genuinely feels like we’re in the presence of other people, rather than talking to them through a compressed format from a bygone age.

    It's going to take a few years for the IVAS codec to be licensed and fully adopted by mobile carriers, but by then we should have a more fully developed mixed-reality space thanks to the arrival of more headsets on the lines of the Apple Vision Pro and Samsung XR/VR headset, plus some corresponding apps.

    But an improvement to voice call quality on our phones, which can still vary wildly between apps, would certainly be a very nice bonus.


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