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By Supantha Mukherjee and Stephen Nellis
STOCKHOLM/SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Cisco has revamped its Webex video meeting software as it targets a bigger share of the booming online collaboration market, adding new features such as background noise cancellation and a transcription service.
Webex currently has more than 600 million meeting participants, nearly double the number it recorded in March before the coronavirus pandemic sparked a mass shift to online working, learning and socialising.
Rivals Zoom and Microsoft, with its Teams software, have also added millions of users, with the global video conferencing market expected to reach $9.2 billion by 2027 from $4.8 billion in 2019, according to market research firm Facts & Factors.
Through acquiring tech companies such as BabbleLabs, Cisco has been able to add features to Webex, such as being able to remove background sounds like a vacuum cleaner.
"They've created a machine learning model...any background noise...can be detected and suppressed, and then speech actually gets amplified," Jeetu Patel, Cisco's general manager for security and applications business, told Reuters in an interview.
He said Webex is planning to introduce several other features in the next three months, including one that will allow real-time transcription of a speaker in 15 different languages.
To meet demand for online business conferences, Cisco is planning to build an events platform allowing users to host a Webex events session with up to 25,000 fully participating attendees initially, and eventually 100,000.
To make the events platform more interactive, Cisco on Monday bought Slido, which engages audiences with real-time feedback, dynamic polls, quizzes, word clouds and surveys.
"We fundamentally believe that how people engage with large groups of people will change, and as a result, you will see us do more and more innovation in that space," Patel said.
The company also launched three new hardware devices, including a Webex desk hub, which allows an employee returning to an office after the pandemic to sign in from any desk by using a laptop, badge or cell phone to authenticate identity. (Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)