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Will Voice AI be useful in the Real Estate industry?

Introduction

The rapid advancement of AI has revolutionized various industries, offering innovative solutions and streamlining processes. This transformative technology has significantly impacted voice technology, opening up new possibilities and applications.

Regarding Real Estate, many agents spend their weekends and evenings working, which is why their phones can go unanswered during those times, agents are busy. This is an obvious gap where AI could help Real Estate agents qualify buyers + help sellers fill the top of the funnel without frustrating the customer.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, including learning, reasoning, and self-correction. It plays a pivotal role in automating tasks, analyzing data, and providing insights for informed decision-making across diverse sectors.

Voice Technology

Voice technology encompasses a wide range of applications, from virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa to voice-activated devices and speech recognition software. Its seamless integration into daily life has transformed the way individuals interact with technology.

The Connection between AI and Voice Technology

AI serves as the driving force behind the evolution of voice technology, enhancing its capabilities and expanding its potential in various domains such as customer service, productivity enhancement, and real estate operations. The synergy between AI and voice technology continues to redefine user experiences and operational efficiency across industries.

By understanding how AI and voice technology work together, we can gain valuable insights into their combined ability to shape the future landscape of various sectors.

The Role of AI in Shaping the Future of Voice Technology

Voice AI, also known as AI voice technology, is changing the way we use technology and is becoming more and more important in our daily lives. This section will look at how Voice AI has developed and why it’s so significant, as well as its effect on customer experience and productivity.

Exploring the development and significance of Voice AI

Voice AI has come a long way since it was first introduced. It started with basic voice recognition systems that had difficulty understanding human speech accurately, but now we have advanced algorithms that can process natural language with great accuracy. Voice AI has also become more accessible to the general public, with popular voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant being widely used.

The significance of Voice AI lies in its ability to offer a more natural and easy way of interacting with devices and services. Instead of typing on a keyboard or tapping on a screen, users can simply speak commands or ask questions to get what they need. This seamless interaction makes things more convenient for everyone.

Enhancing Customer Experience with AI Receptionists

One area where Voice AI is making a big difference is customer service. Many businesses are using AI receptionists powered by Voice AI technology to handle customer inquiries, provide information, and even assist with basic transactions. These virtual receptionists are available 24/7, respond instantly, and offer consistent service.

By using Voice AI, businesses can improve their customer experience by providing personalized interactions that feel like talking to a real person. For example, an AI receptionist can greet customers by name, answer common questions, give product suggestions based on preferences, and even schedule appointments. This level of personalization not only makes customers happier but also helps businesses save time and money by reducing the need for human workers in repetitive tasks.

Boosting Productivity with AI Assistants

Voice AI isn’t just useful for customer service – it can also help us be more productive. AI assistants powered by Voice AI technology can handle many different tasks, such as setting reminders, managing schedules, doing research, and analyzing data. These assistants work like virtual personal assistants, making it easier for us to stay organized, automate routine tasks, and get information without using our hands.

For professionals in various industries, like real estate agents, having an AI assistant can be a game-changer. They can use voice commands to quickly find property information, schedule appointments, communicate with clients, and manage their daily tasks more efficiently. With the ability to do multiple things at once and deal with complex questions, AI assistants let professionals focus on important work that requires human skills.

Voice AI is changing the future of voice technology by improving customer experience with AI receptionists and boosting productivity with AI assistants. As this technology gets better over time, we’ll see even more creative uses that will transform how we use voice-controlled devices and services.

AI’s Impact on the Real Estate Industry

AI has made significant strides in various industries, and the real estate sector is no exception. With the integration of AI technology, real estate organizations can streamline processes, enhance productivity, and improve customer experiences. Here are some key points to consider regarding AI’s impact on the real estate industry:

Analyzing the Use Cases of AI in Real Estate

AI offers numerous applications in real estate, revolutionizing the way properties are bought, sold, and managed. For instance:

  • Chatbots powered by AI can assist potential buyers in answering their queries and providing relevant property information.
  • AI-powered virtual tour platforms enable potential buyers to explore properties remotely, saving time and effort.
  • Predictive analytics algorithms can analyze market trends and predict property values, helping investors make informed decisions.

Predictions for the Future: AI’s Dominance in the Industry by 2024

Experts predict a significant surge in the reliance on AI technology within the real estate industry. By 2024:

  • AI is expected to play a crucial role in automating repetitive tasks such as paperwork, data entry, and lead generation.
  • Virtual assistants powered by AI will become commonplace, assisting real estate agents with scheduling appointments, managing client databases, and providing personalized recommendations.

Highlighting Keller Williams’ Innovation in the Form of an AI Virtual Assistant

Keller Williams, a prominent real estate company, has embraced AI technology to enhance its operations. Their AI virtual assistant named Kelle assists agents with various tasks such as market analysis, lead generation, and transaction management. Kelle leverages machine learning algorithms to provide tailored insights to agents, helping them make data-driven decisions.

AI’s impact on the real estate industry is undeniable. By leveraging AI for real estate purposes, organizations can improve efficiency, deliver exceptional customer experiences, and stay ahead of the competition.

Overcoming Challenges: The Path Ahead for Voice AI

Exploring the Potential and Limitations of Voice Technology in Real Estate

In the world of real estate, AI-powered voice technology has great potential to make processes more efficient and improve customer experiences. Real estate companies can use AI assistants to automate repetitive tasks, offer personalized property suggestions, and provide round-the-clock customer support. Voice AI can completely change how people search for properties by allowing them to have natural conversations, making it simpler for clients to find their dream homes.

However, we must also recognize the limitations of voice technology in real estate. Even with advancements in understanding human language and complex real estate queries, there are still challenges. While AI assistants can handle basic questions effectively, they may struggle with more detailed discussions or negotiations.

Addressing Controversies around AI-generated Vocals in the Music Industry

AI-generated vocals have both excited and caused controversy in the music industry. While AI technology makes it possible to create incredibly lifelike vocal performances, it also raises important questions about authenticity and artistic expression. Some artists see AI-generated vocals as a tool for exploring new creative possibilities, while others worry that it could diminish the value of human artistry. The debate over copyright surrounding AI-generated music is a significant aspect of this discussion.

In this ever-changing world of voice AI, overcoming these challenges will require careful thought and continuous innovation. Real estate companies need to understand the potential and limitations of voice technology while also considering ethical concerns. Likewise, the music industry is grappling with how to strike a balance between traditional artistry and technological progress. As both fields continue to develop, finding solutions to these challenges will be crucial in shaping the future of voice AI across various industries.

The Evolutionary Journey of AI Voice Assistants

Tracing the Advancements in Conversational AI from Chatbots to Voice Assistants like Siri and Alexa

The evolution of conversational AI has reached significant milestones, starting with the rise of AI-powered chatbots that laid the foundation for more sophisticated voice assistants. Chatbots initially provided basic automated responses to user queries, but their capabilities expanded rapidly with advancements in natural language processing and machine learning.

1. The Rise of Chatbots

  • Chatbots initially provided basic automated responses to user queries
  • Their capabilities expanded rapidly with advancements in natural language processing and machine learning

2. The Emergence of Advanced Language Models

Recent years have witnessed the emergence of advanced language models that have revolutionized voice AI. Models such as ChatGPT, Google Bard, and vimGPT have pushed the boundaries of conversational AI by enabling more human-like interactions and nuanced understanding of context.

This journey from rudimentary chatbots to highly advanced voice assistants highlights the remarkable progress in AI’s ability to understand and respond to human language, paving the way for a future where seamless human-machine communication becomes increasingly indistinguishable from human-human interaction.

Future Horizons: What Lies Ahead for AI In Real Estate

Examining Cutting-edge Research in the Field of Voice AI

Ishan Shah, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, has been making significant strides in the development of GPT-4V, an advanced version of the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) language model specifically tailored for voice applications in real estate. This cutting-edge research holds the potential to revolutionize how voice AI is utilized within the real estate industry. GPT-4V could enable more natural and contextually relevant interactions between AI systems and real estate clients, ultimately enhancing the overall customer experience.

Insights from Real Estate Industry Experts on the Future Trajectory of Voice AI

Real estate industry experts are increasingly recognizing the transformative potential of voice AI in shaping the future of their sector. With a focus on enhancing customer engagement and streamlining operations, voice AI is poised to become an indispensable tool for real estate professionals.

Apple’s director of AI research Ruslan Salakhutdinov’s perspective

Apple’s director of AI research, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, has been vocal about the pivotal role that voice AI will play in redefining how real estate organizations interact with clients and manage their internal processes.

Through continued innovation and collaboration with industry leaders, voice AI is set to unlock new opportunities and efficiencies within the real estate landscape.

Conclusion

AI has emerged as a catalyst for innovation in voice technology across various sectors. From customer experience enhancement to boosting productivity, AI has played a significant role in shaping the future of voice technology. As we have explored in this article, AI receptionists and assistants have revolutionized industries by providing seamless interactions and personalized experiences.

In the real estate industry, AI has enabled numerous advancements and use cases. With AI virtual assistants, real estate organizations can automate tasks, provide 24/7 support, and streamline operations. Snapsonic AI is a solution that empowers real estate organizations with its cutting-edge technology and comprehensive features.

Looking ahead, the future trajectory of voice AI holds immense potential. Researchers like Ishan Shah at Carnegie Mellon University are pushing the boundaries with projects like GPT-4V. Real estate industry experts, including Apple’s director of AI research Ruslan Salakhutdinov, provide valuable insights into the evolving landscape of voice AI.

As we move forward, it is crucial to address challenges and controversies surrounding voice technology. While there are limitations to overcome, the generative AI boom continues to drive innovation. Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa have evolved from simple chatbots to sophisticated language models.

AI remains at the forefront of voice technology innovation. Its impact on industries such as real estate is undeniable. To leverage the benefits of AI-powered voice technology, readers are encouraged to explore solutions like Snapsonic AI – Your Voice in Real Estate — a powerful tool for real estate organizations seeking to optimize their operations and enhance customer experiences.

“The future is not just about web browsing AI assistants or open-source software—it’s about creating seamless user experiences through AI-powered voice helpers.” – VisualWebArena

By embracing AI and its capabilities, organizations can unlock new possibilities and stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market.

Book a meeting with Snapsonic and discover how we can transform how your real estate organization integrates AI to win new business today!

AI Agency solutions
AI Agency Solutions

AI Agency Solutions

After experiencing a rapid post-pandemic recovery, agencies’ earnings have returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, AI investments have skyrocketed, reaching $92 billion in 2022 and $50 to $60 billion year-to-date in 2023. The future growth of agencies relies on their ability to adapt their economic model and fully embrace the potential of AI in their processes, capabilities, and structure. In 2024, agencies will need to transform their services-based model into a solutions-based one, combining creativity and technology products. This shift will impact all agency types, including creative, media, PR, digital, and in-house agencies, as they integrate people with technology.

Bespoke Brand Algorithms

In the future, brands will purchase the algorithms developed by their agencies. These algorithms will be created by training AI-powered marketing engines with various first- and third-party audience signals, historical media performance data, and creative content. Forrester refers to these customized algorithms as “brand language models.” They are brand-specific applications of AI technology that utilize base models like Meta’s Llama or OpenAI’s GPT. These models incorporate insights from audience signals and incorporate a company’s branding elements such as fonts, colors, tone of voice, and intellectual property. Brand language models act as engines that generate personalized marketing content based on human creative ideas with machine precision and speed.

Increased Agency Reviews

As concerns about AI mismanagement grow, agencies and marketers will face an increase in reviews. Until AI legislation is enacted in the US and EU, agencies and marketers will need to self-govern their AI marketing practices. This self-regulation raises concerns among business leaders, with 61% of AI decision-makers worried about privacy and data protection issues that may violate laws like the GDPR. Additionally, 57% are concerned about the potential errors resulting from the misuse of AI-generated outputs. To mitigate reputational fallout from mismanaged AI marketing executions, marketers will seek safe AI implementation, leading to more accounts being up for review in 2024.

Disappearance of Digital Agencies

As generative AI technology shapes more personalized and conversational experiences, marketing as a whole will become predominantly “digital marketing.” This shift eliminates the need for specialized “digital” agencies, as all agencies will adapt and offer new AI services to deliver brand experiences. This transformation leaves pure-play digital agencies facing the challenge of digital sameness and commoditization. In the words of the supervillain Syndrome from “The Incredibles,” “When everyone is super, then no one will be.”

Balance Automation With Augmentation

While traditional notions of artificial intelligence focus on automation and potential employee displacement, the influence of generative AI leans more towards employee skill set augmentation. Technologies like robotic process automation, deep learning, computer vision, and intelligent automation have the potential to automate 25% of agency roles. However, genAI offers opportunities for more agency roles to benefit from the integration of AI, with only 7.5% of agency roles expected to be automated by the end of the decade. The key is to find a balance between cost efficiency and the increased volume and impact of human creativity, complemented by AI.

B2C Marketers: Leap Now, Not Later

The AI era for agencies is already in full swing, with experimentation progressing towards implementation. It’s crucial for marketers to embrace generative AI and leverage its speed, intelligence, scale, and creativity. In 2024, marketing executives, agency leaders, procurement professionals, and technology providers will work together to commercialize the adoption of AI by agencies and the resulting transformation it enables.

For more insights, please visit the Predictions 2024 hub and download the guide.

This blog was written by VP, Principal Analyst Jay Pattisall and it originally appeared on Snapsonic.

AI Agency Solutions, AI automation consulting, AI Consultancy, Lifestyle, microsoft teams, News, privacy, WebRTC

Microsoft Teams Phone System, Direct Routing, and SBCs, a journey. (pt.4/4)

Last week we spent some time reviewing the TLS and SIP Options requirements for Microsoft Direct Routing, this week it’s payday! Time to make some final adjustments and place some calls.

Setting your outbound routes

For my setup, I wanted to route the outbound calls to my CPaaS, where I could do many other things besides just Origination or Termination. After some experimenting, we had our route configured and we could try some calls.

Calls were now flowing from my Teams client to my SBC and onto my CPaaS / external PSTN phone numbers. Much to my jubilation, the quality was pretty good, check it out for yourself…


Inbound routes

Now the harder part, routing calls into Teams. For this part, I had to route to the Microsoft SIP resources + assign external numbers from my CPaaS to the Teams active users. This is where things get “interesting”. 

As it turns out, the only way you can assign an external number to a user in Teams (today at least) is to run commands from a Power Shell connected to the Teams instance. Since I am a Mac user, that meant spinning up a VirtualBox, installing Windows on a VM, installing PowerShell and SFB modules. (Microsoft, please tell me there is a C# or Graph API coming for this).

Be sure to Run PS as Administrator

Then we need to run the command to connect to the SFB resources…

It will create some remoting modules…

Once authenticated you will end up back at the prompt, where you can enter the commands to add your phone numbers.

That command looks something like this…

Set-CsUser -Identity “user@domain.name” -OnPremLineURI tel:1234567890 -EnterpriseVoiceEnabled $true -HostedVoiceMail $true

Tech tip: Here is a link to all the Skype module commands.

If it works, it will return you back to the PS prompt. A quick look inside Teams and we will see that the number has been associated with the user as an On-premises number.

Here we see the Teams user with the assigned number inside the Team client interface…

Now, we have to route the inbound number from the CPaaS to the SBC and then onto Teams. In my case, I registered my SBC to a CPaaS SIP endpoint and used that connection to send inbound calls from my number to the SBC endpoint. The SBC then forwards the calls to the Teams SIP servers and decides where to send the media. Even though all my endpoints were in the Vancouver area, the media sometimes connected in East USA, which seems weird, maybe their Western hubs were overloaded, not sure.

Et Voila! Once everything was set up, calls inbound started working. Celebrate your small victories, as my dad always said. Here is a screenshot of me answering a call from an external number to my Teams phone number.

I added a bit of redundancy (few more servers) monitoring + failover logic and rolled it out for my buddy’s business.

He’s elated. Not only is the price right, but he now has a great deal more flexibility in how he uses the systems. He added some SIP desk phones to the mix, which now ring simultaneously when someone calls a Teams number.

I also added some SMS capabilities, TTS (Text To Speech), Call Recording and Call Whisper to his setup. 

The next post will be on using external telephony resources with some of the Microsoft Phone System features like; Auto-Attendant, Call Queues, Transfer, etc.


I hope you found this article interesting. We have had good interest in the offering thus far and now are now thinking of building a complete all-in-one solution that would do all of this through an intuitive interface eg. connect external phone systems, carriers/aggregators/cpaas, buy/manage numbers, choose carriers, set up domains, add TLS certs, et al. Let us know if you think that would be something you would be interested in. 

If you have any questions or comments or want your own SBC for Direct Routing, get in touch via erik@snapsonic.com or give us a call 1.877.897.1952

AI Agency Solutions, AI Agents, AI automation consulting, AI Consultancy, AI for Small Business, Digital Marketing, microsoft teams, Misc, News, privacy, WebRTC, Websites

Microsoft Teams Phone System, Direct Routing, and SBCs, a journey. (pt.2)

In the last post, we talked about Microsoft’s Business Voice offer and why it’s not always a practical solution. Today we get a bit more in-depth on the Direct Routing components and what’s required for external Teams telephony and the associated SBCs.

Direct Routing and Session Border Controllers

Direct Routing is Microsoft’s way of saying, external SIP connectivity. It allows admins of Teams to create interconnectivity with the outside VoIP and PSTN world without using Microsoft’s calling plans. From the Microsoft website…

Direct Routing lets you connect a supported Session Border Controller (SBC) to Microsoft Phone System to enable voice calling features. You can view information about SBCs and online voice routes; add, edit, or delete an SBC; add, edit, and specify priority of online voice routes; and manage online PSTN usage records.

So, here we know that in order for us to connect our own VOIP phone system, I needed an SBC in the middle. Here’s a quick reminder of what an SBC does in a VoIP network…

SBCs, or Session Border Controllers, are network elements that help protect VoIP networks from malicious attacks. They also serve as a point of NAT traversal and media transcoding, to aid in the connection of VoIP endpoints.

Well, it’s not the end of the world. My favorite CPaaS has plenty of SBCs in-network so that shouldn’t be an issue. Not so fast. This particular SBC needs to be set up with some specific configuration including TLS + SIP Options, specific Contact Headers & audio codecs, and few more fiddly bits. Time to dust off my SIP tools and get started. Let’s start by seeing what happens when we try and point Direct Routing to my CPaaS SBCs…

Nope, no go. Now what’s this about the domain not being setup? O365 admin says my DNS configuration is fine, so what gives?

After spending some time with Microsoft Support, the fellow I was speaking to said he copied my setup and his config wasn’t working until he enabled Exchange and Outlook MX records in his DNS. Hmm, that didn’t sound right. I didn’t want to point all my MX records to Outlook for this test, I only want Voice and Teams chat to work. Then I noticed there is a “Skype For Business / Voice” only option when verifying your domain.

I added the DNS records and it gave me the all green as you can see above, but it still wasn’t allowing me to add the SBC.

Tech Tip: I had to actually assign a user to that domain before it would recognize that domain as being active. After doing that I was able to add my SBC domain.

Down the SBC rabbit hole

The SBC in my chosen CPaaS was not directing calls to the proper Microsoft SIP signaling servers, looks like I will definitely need an SBC in between my CPaaS and Microsoft’s SIP servers. 

I had no choice, if I was going to get this working I would have to use one of the certified Teams SBCs, or build my own. The certified SBCs were relatively expensive and required licensing based on per channel usage or per minute metering if you used one of their cloud images eg. Azure, Amazon. That would not fly for my friend’s business, he is very cost-conscious, not unlike most business owners.

Down the rabbit hole we go, I bit the bullet and began building up a server. The first objective was getting outbound calls to the PSTN/outside world from Teams users. From past experience, it’s always easier to start with outbound calling first, when you get that working move on to inbound. The reason being is that NAT firewalls and SIP don’t mix well, especially if they are blocking certain traffic. Sending traffic out of a NAT was always easier than getting past the firewall inbound.

I set to work on building my SBC also known as a B2BUA (Back to back user Agent). This is not brain surgery but it does take some VoIP network know-how and a good understanding of Linux.

My first stop was Kamailio.org. A great open-source SIP server project that is used in countless commercial deployments. I found some recent articles on their mail-list talking about how to setup up Kamailio with Teams, which was a great start. Before we can proceed we must address the elephant in the room, TLS.

More on that in the next “Microsoft Teams Phone System, Direct Routing, and SBCs, a journey. (pt.3)”, to be published next week!


I hope you found this article interesting.

If you have any questions or comments or want your own SBC for Direct Routing, get in touch via erik@snapsonic.com or give us a call 1.877.897.1952

AI Agency Solutions, AI Agents, Ai Assistants, AI Automation, AI Consultancy

WebRTC in 2017

The road to the promised land.

For more than 6 years, we have been working on and looking forward to a simpler way to build RTC (Real Time Communications) applications on the web. In order for this technology to truly show its value, the major browser vendors needed to show up.

Now, it’s a reality!

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 5.07.26 PM

macOS SierraLeft: Safari Preview 32 (Safari 11.0, WebKit 12604.1.23.0.4) using H.264  Right: Chrome Version 58.0.3029.110 (64-bit). https://webrtc.github.io/samples/ using H.264

Mobile, mobile, mobile.

Now that Apple has joined the party in earnest, does the technology have the coverage required in order for developers to make good use of WebRTC on mobile devices? Let’s find out.

Until now, in order for WebRTC to work on iOS, we were relegated to wrapping WebRTC code in Objective-C and Swift, in our native iOS apps. Basically, we had to take the Chrome code and build an app that was sent to the app store for approval and wait in line, like all the other chumps (yours truly included). Conversely, on Android we could run much of that same code from our desktop Chrome apps, on the Android device as well, within reason of course.

Now that Safari and Chrome are shipping compatible WebRTC on mobile, we get to reuse the same code, right!? Well, mostly, they are different code bases, after all.

A word about hardware acceleration.

If ubiquitous mobile video is to take off, the battery life of the device has to last more than the length of the 10 minute video call (ok, I am exaggerating a bit, but I think you get the point) and the performance needs to be at least adequate enough to distinguish facial features. My bar is set a little higher, baby steps for now.

Without h/w acceleration the CPU is likely working too hard to encode the local video and decode the inbound video + service the other processes required at the same time. That really means there needs to be hardware onboard the device dedicated to video coding. That in turn means H.264, since there are very few vendors that offer VP8 or VP9 h/w acceleration.

Question: Does this mean that mobile apps written with VP8 will not be able to deliver decent mobile video conferencing?

Answer: No, not at all, but they will likely not be as performant as those taking advantage of hardware acceleration.

Suffice to say that SVC (Scalable Video Coding) usage would be another reason why we need h/w acceleration, but that’s for another day.

Who’s using what?

The majority of desktop and mobile WebRTC apps written today, are using VP8 for video.

Since Apple and Microsoft both use H.264 and Google uses VP8 and H.264 (recently shipped Open H.264 – on the desktop and mobile). Also, many of the Enterprise RTC developers are already on that H.264 bandwagon.

Question: If Apple and Microsoft devices ship with H.264, what is the case with Google Chrome on desktops and android, are they preferencing VP8?

Answer: Chrome for desktop and android now have H.264 native. Many of the Android devices that ship today all have H.264 hardware acceleration onboard. In order to understand which units have H.264 and hardware acceleration, you can run use the Android APIs to pull a list of available codecs, but in the case of WebRTC, you will only get H.264 in Android WebRTC if there is a h/w encoder on the device.

Is H.264 the answer for WebRTC video?

Here is a recent test:
Host 1 – (before joining):
macOS Sierra, Macbook, Safari (Technology Preview 32)

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 1.17.11 PM

Host 2 (after joining):
Android 7, Samsung 7, Chrome 55

chrome-android

setRemoteDescription OperationError: Failed to set remote video description and params.     Likely because Safari is not seeing H.264 on Android.

Host 1 (after joining):

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 1.39.57 PM

According to the Chrome Status page, Chrome for Android should have H.264. So why is the session barfing when trying to set up video? The logs do not lie…

Safari – offer:
a=rtpmap:96 red/90000
a=rtpmap:98 ulpfec/90000
a=rtpmap:99 H264/90000

Chrome on android – answer:
a=rtpmap:96 red/90000
a=rtpmap:98 ulpfec/90000
a=rtpmap:97 rtx/90000

Err, huh? No H.264 in reply?
So, I updated to latest Chrome on android (58) and tried again…

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 5.26.44 PM
et voilà!!

Next topic, paying the man!

Shipping your product with H.264 enabled, means you may potentially need to deal with the MPEG-LA royalty police for H.264 royalties, but there are some grey areas.

In the case of Apple and Microsoft, where H.264 royalties are already being paid for by the parent vendor, the WebRTC developer is riding on the coattails of papa bear, at least in theory.

Cisco’s generous OpenH.264 offer means that those using this binary module, can do so at potentially no cost:

We will not pass on our MPEG-LA licensing costs for this module, and based on the current licensing environment, this will effectively make H.264 free for use on supported platforms.

Q: If I use the source code in my product, and then distribute that product on my own, will Cisco cover the MPEG LA licensing fees which I’d otherwise have to pay?

A: No. Cisco is only covering the licensing fees for its own binary module, and products or projects that utilize it must download it at the time the product or project is installed on the user’s computer or device. Cisco will not be liable for any licensing fees incurred by other parties.

That seems to mean (I am no lawyer) every developer shipping WebRTC apps supporting Open H.264 binary module, get a free ride. Those using some other binary, or shipping the above source code for that module, could be on the hook for those royalties. That said, since there are royalties being paid by parent vendors where devices are shipping H.264 anyways, developers may not get hassled regardless.

Summary:

So what did we learn here?

  • Apple has joined the party, now we have a full complement of browser vendors!
  • If you want to leverage WebRTC video to deliver a ubiquitous mobile and desktop experience for your users, you should likely consider including both H.264 and VP8.
  • VP8 is (still) free and powers most of the WebRTC video out there today.
  • You can make use of the Open H.264 project and get a free H.264 ride, albeit baseline AVC.
  • WebRTC on Android does not support software encoding of H.264, so unless there is local hardware acceleration, H.264 will not be in the offer.
  • H.264 is not fully enabled (or buggy) in Chrome 55 (I was using it on Samsung S7 Edge (Android 7), but it does work with Chrome 58.
  • WebRTC is not DOA!
  • SDP still sucks and ORTC can’t come soon enough!!

The W3C and IETF are also closing in on shipping WebRTC as a web standard, here’s a great update from Google on that as well. Latest W3C WebRTC editor’s draft, latest charter.

As a side note, it would be interesting to see something like this open sourced; VP8 / H.264 conversion without transcoding, if only to service the existing desktop apps currently running VP8 <-> mobile H.264. It would likely overwhelm the mobile device, but it would be cool if it worked!

Disclaimer: The views expressed by me are mine alone and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

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