VirginWorlds Interviews Vivox
Jun 20, 2007 18:13:58

Monty Sharma, VP Product Management and Marketing at Vivox was kind enough to answer some questions regarding the voice technologies that Vivox is bringing to our massive online worlds.

VIRGINWORLDS: Monty, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for VirginWorlds. First, tell us about yourself and where are you located.

SHARMA: My pleasure Brent. I love listening to your show. Long time listener, first time caller. Vivox is located in Framingham, Mass - just outside of Boston. We integrate high quality and massively scalable voice communications into online games and virtual worlds.

VIRGINWORLDS: What is new in Vivox's world since GDC?
SHARMA: Things are moving fast for us. We have some new customers that we will be announcing soon, our voice fonts are progressing, and we have a new release of our platform in the works that will add even more functionality and extend our quality. Plus, we are integrating and getting titles launched.

VIRGINWORLDS: Vivox has been focusing a ton of attention on the massive gaming space (which we appreciate) but your technology has limitless applications. What other fields is Vivox looking at?

SHARMA: Really wherever there is an online community our solution can address their needs. Presently we are working with virtual worlds, like Second Life. We are also working with some large corporate clients who are expanding how they communicate with a global workforce. We have also worked with online social networking sites. Our primary focus and love is for gaming though.

VIRGINWORLDS: How about podcasting over Vivox technology? Have you considered going after Skype's market, and if so, would you please include a multi-track recording feature in your version? Podcasters would worship you.
SHARMA: We are looking at a local recording solution that will break each of the voices into a separate track. We are hoping to have this for you by the end of the year. This would also be available in the worlds we have integrated our voice solution so you could conduct and interview in EVE and get the multi-track recording.

VIRGINWORLDS: Voice over internet technologies are a dime a dozen these days. What sets Vivox apart from the pack? Please feel free to include the special sauce in your answer.
SHARMA: What really sets us apart is our ability to integrate seamlessly into a world and support the communication through our service. Not to mention a few other things...

  • Experience - we deliver service to millions of users and have tuned our network for close to 5 years
  • Features - we are focused on building solutions for the Virgin Worlds so everything we do is focused on that and not on trying to build a phone company. That is why we deal in channel sizes with 1000s of users, 3D audio, voice fonts, and other gaming specific features.
  • Control - we own the code from the client to the server and have tuned and built in monitoring so we can run the service well. You know as an IT professional that monitoring is always left to the end and the lack of it is the main reason for down time.
  • Customization - we have a granular API set that allows developers to fit the communications to their world. This provides simple, secure, and scalable communications for everyone from noob to uber.

    The only thing I can say about our secret sauce is maple syrup and a hint of Cayenne.

    VIRGINWORLDS: Back to MMOs. Is Vivox full of gamers?

    SHARMA: The whole company is a bunch of gaming geeks. And the gaming extends past online. Some of us recognize Steve Jackson on sight and have the pictures to prove it! It helps to be a gamer in this business. It is a great thing to love what you do and have fun doing it, though I am a little behind in my EVE training....

    VIRGINWORLDS: How do you like working with the game studios? Are they relieved to have voice over IP experts with a mature product on hand instead of trying to develop voice integration from scratch?

    SHARMA: We love working with the studios. Meeting some of the minds behind our favorite games has been a great rush for us. I have spent over 20 years in technology and I have never seen an industry where everyone is so friendly and helpful. I think to a certain extent even though studios compete with each other they share the secret of playing games for a living - it does not get better than that legally. The best customers we have had are people who have experience in communications - they are the ones who know what it takes to deliver voice to millions of users. Generally we find that once developers understand the creative control they have over adding voice to games they are excited and focused on improving group dynamics, ad hoc player encounters and deepening the immersive aspects of the game with things like voice fonts.

    VIRGINWORLDS: Tell us about your sound fonts and voice manipulation tools? We saw some of that at GDC, but to my knowledge you haven't had a production release yet. Can we expect that in the near future and if so, in which titles?

    SHARMA: We can't name titles yet but we are working with some developers. The interesting thing for me with voice fonts has been the technology element of it has been a small component. After the tools are in place it becomes more like music and creating sounds that evoke a certain feeling or image and making them consistent with the avatar. Right now we are in the composing stage and hope to have performances soon.

    VIRGINWORLDS: Do the game studios worry about the immersion breaking qualities of VOIP as it pertains to fantasy games? Are fantasy games a tougher sell due to this factor?

    SHARMA: Not at all, and this has not been an issue that we have come across. Every developer understands by now that voice is a given for a new game, either you deliver a well integrated experience that enhances game play or players will find another solution. .

    VIRGINWORLDS: And finally, will you be showing off your technology at GDC Austin this fall, and if so, will you please let VirginWorlds buy a round of beer this time?

    SHARMA: Vivox will indeed be in Austin, booth #215. We are looking forward to showing off some new things and making some announcements. And you can absolutely buy the next round Brent!

    VIRGINWORLDS: Thanks for the time Monty. It has been a real pleasure.

    SHARMA: Thank you for giving us the time to talk to your community, Brent.


    You can learn more about Vivox at:

  • Submitted by Brent on Jun 20, 2007 18:13:58 CST (comments: 2)


    'Great Interview' by Kanthalos
    Submitted on 2007-06-27 12:35:20 CST
    Really good stuff. Interestingly enough, I just touched on a bit of this in my last post on my blog, but I was surprised that he didn't seem phased by the immersion-breaking attitude a lot of people have. He's definitely right on about companies needing to incorporate it into future games, whether or not people use it however, is up to them.

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