Business Apr 23, 2022

An Exploration of Various Voice Chat Room Use Cases

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Since Clubhouse was launched in early 2020 and started to get traction, many internet companies, including those big names such as Twitter, Facebook, and Spotify, have rushed into the race of social audio. Today, voice and video chats have become an essential part of many social platforms. With the advancements in real-time audio and video technologies, more and more new use cases of real-time audio and video have been brought to life.

In terms of social audio, as a cloud-based real-time audio and video service provider, we've helped many clients develop their innovative voice chat room products based on our real-time voice service, such as drop-in voice chat rooms, live voice radio stations, and in-game voice. In this article, we would like to share with you some of the most popular and successful social audio use cases, the challenges of building high-quality voice chat rooms for different use cases, and the solutions to these challenges.

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Categories of Voice Chat Room Use Cases

Currently, voice chat use cases can be classified into four broad categories, the majority of which are based on group chats. People, especially strangers, tend to feel more relaxed in a group chat setting.

1) Private 1-on-1 chat rooms

2) Group chat rooms

a) Group voice chat

b) Group voice chat plus gaming

c) Group voice chat plus live sports video streaming

d) Group voice chat plus private online cinema

e) Group voice chat plus impromptu voice acting with TV or movie scripts

3) Voice radio station (with a single host or multiple hosts)

4) Voice chat room plus online karaoke

A more Detailed Introduction to Each Use Case

1)1-on-1 private chat room

A 1-on-1 private chat room caters to the needs of some social apps that want to provide a feature for their users to have 1-on-1 private conversations in the app, such as voice dating apps and voice chat apps for strangers. Many social audio apps support one-on-one voice chat. For stranger voice chats, there are two types of business models: free voice chats and paid chat services. On a paid chat platform, people can pay to get someone providing chat services on the platform to chat with them.

In terms of app features and technical implementation, different apps have different requirements in the following aspects:

· With or without background music

· Whether or not to forward streams to CDN

· Whether or not to record the voice chats

· If chat recording is required, apps may choose to record individual audio streams separately or record all audio streams of a voice chat as a single stream (i.e., mix the streams before recording). And apps may choose to deploy chat recording on cloud servers or on-premises servers.

2)Group chat rooms

On top of basic group voice chat room, more elements can be added to create diverse use cases, such as using group voice chat for teaming up in games, watching live sports video streaming together online, or doing some impromptu voice acting with TV or movie scripts in a virtual room.

a) Basic group chat rooms

There are two types of basic group chat rooms: voice chat with an audience, or without an audience. Group voice chat rooms can be created around different topics, such as trending news, culture, relationships, partners for exercise, etc. In a voice chat room, speakers can interact with each other in real-time voice, while the listeners can have text chat and send virtual gifts to others in the room.

b) Group voice chat plus gaming

When group voice chat meets gaming, we call it in-game voice. Voice chat can be built into games for different purposes. In large multi-player games like PlayerUnknow's Battlegrounds (PUBG), voice chat is a very convenient communications channel for gamers to team up and coordinate while playing games. In small social games like online werewolves and murder mystery games, voice chat is an integral part of the gameplay.

c) Group voice chat plus live sports video streaming

People can watch a live streaming match together in a virtual room, with the room host and multiple guests/speakers discussing and commenting on that match in real-time via voice chat. Audience members in the room can have text chat and send out virtual gifts to others.

d) Group voice chat plus private online cinema

Like the above use case, people can watch a movie together and have real-time voice chat in a virtual room. The difference is that movies are pre-recorded video sources while sports games are live streaming video sources.

e) Group voice chat plus impromptu voice acting with TV or movie scripts

In such voice chat rooms, the room host can invite audience members to connect live and do some impromptu voice acting together using some TV or movie scripts or some paragraphs from a novel, while other audience members in the room can give text comments in real-time or request to go onstage to perform with the host and other speakers.

3)Voice radio station (with a single host or multiple hosts)

Currently, voice radio station is a very popular feature on social platforms. In a voice radio station, the host broadcasts with live voice streaming to an audience. The host can also invite some select audience members, most likely those who are paid users or have sent virtual gifts, to start a conversation. There are two types of voice radio stations: single-host one-way live streaming, and multi-host interactive live streaming. For both types, having background music is a must, which is a major difference between a voice radio station and a basic voice chat room.

4)Voice chat room plus online karaoke

In a voice chat room with online karaoke, users can pick songs to sing along with accompaniment, others can send text to comment on the singers’ performance or just have a casual chat. Users can have different activities in the room, such as song guessing (listen to a short clip and guess the title of the song), singing in turns, and singing in chorus. And there can be an audience listening in or no audience in a live karaoke room. There are two modes for this practice. The first mode allows a group of users to chat with voice interactively, The second mode allows only one user to speak at a time, and passes turn to next user to speak once the user finishes. In first mode, one of the speakers is allowed to sing, while other speakers, possibly including the host, can talk while listening to the song; the singer is enabled to single without hearing the voice of others, while the other speakers can hear all the voice and the song. In second mode, with a song being picked, every speaker sings a part of the song, and passes turn to next user to sing; while listening to the song, except for the singer, others can only listen and send text, but cannot speak.

The Technical Challenges of Building High-Quality Social Audio Apps

1)Guaranteeing stable performance

It is challenging to guarantee the quality of user experience in a group voice chat scenario, let alone those scenarios with additional demands. The most often seen issues include stutters, obvious delay, unclear voice, or abrupt drop-offs, which significantly degrade the user experience. For example, in the voice acting scenarios, such issues would prevent users from fully immersing themselves in the performance and totally ruin the fun.

These issues are caused by many factors that arise from user smart phones and unstable network. ZEGOCLOUD takes good care of these issues with its sophisticated terminal client-side voice engine and data acceleration network (MSDN). ZEGOCLOUD adapted advanced algorithms, such as Automatic Repeat-reQuest (ARQ), Forward Error Correction (FEC), Jitter Buffering, Frame Loss Concealment (FLC), and network-adaptive bit-rate control, to guarantee the QoS of data transmission, delivering a smooth voice chat experience with ultra-low latency. In addition, ZEGOCOULD optimizes the whole streaming process, including encoding, decoding, and rendering, by selecting an appropriate encoder and decoder and making good use of the computational power of GPU.

2)Ensuring audio quality

There are many acoustic issues in a real-world environment, such as noises and echoes. In addition, some users’ low-end smartphones could also cause some acoustic issues like background noises and insufficient voice volume. To ensure the audio quality, voice data has to be processed before encoding. ZEGOCLOUD’s voice chat room solution is built upon its proprietary voice engine that have built-in sophisticated and time-tested audio pre-processing algorithms, including acoustic echo cancellation (AEC), automatic noise suppression (ANS), and automatic gain control (AGC). These algorithms can significantly reduce echoes, suppress noises, and adjust voice volume to an appropriate level automatically, enabling your app to deliver a high-quality voice chat experience that is comparable to face-to-face conversations.

3)Keeping the lyrics synchronized with the accompaniment in online karaoke scenarios

In online karaoke scenarios, users will find it is hard to sing well if the lyrics is not aligned with the accompaniment. So, it is vital to make sure that the lyrics, which essentially are text messages, are perfectly sync-ed with the rhythm of the song. ZEGOCLOUD achieves lyrics-accompaniment synchronization by injecting lyrics data with timestamps into the extended segment of media payload data. At the receiver end, media and lyrics data are unpacked and displayed synchronously.

4)Creating fun and engaging sound effects

For social audio apps, sometimes there are business needs to add special effects to users’ voice, such as voice changing. There are many scenarios where voice changing is needed. For example, Users may want to use voice changing when they don't feel comfortable using their real voice in a voice chat, or they may just want to sound funny. ZEGOCLOUD’s voice chat room solution comes with a built-in voice changing feature, which allows developers to change the tone and timbre of voice, making them different from their original acoustic feelings. It can create various voice changing effects. It can make a user's voice sound like a lovely little girl's voice, a middle-aged man's voice, a naughty little boy’s voice, etc. It can also change a male voice into a female voice or vice versa. Besides voice changing, ZEGOCLOUD also provides a set of generic and most often used voice effects. In addition, ZEGOCLOUD also provides APIs with customizable parameters to allow developers to create more custom audio effects as they wish.

Future Opportunities for Social Audio Apps

As the Gen-Z becomes a significant part of the internet user population, their appetites for social apps and online behaviors habits have a major impact on any social platforms. As we have observed, voice chat room apps built for specific scenarios are more attractive to the Gen-Z, and have demonstrated vigorous vitality. These voice chat room apps are not only social networking tools, but also the virtual space where users play games with others, sing karaoke together, and even develop a relationship with someone. Those "small but beautiful" social audio apps built for a niche market generally have a user base that is more active and more willing to pay.

As businesses reach into more niche markets, more and more social audio apps will emerge, and ZEGOCLOUD will continue to deliver high-quality solutions to meet these requirements and provide a strong foundation for these apps to thrive.

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