AI-powered voice assistants are changing the way we live. Hundreds of millions of people use these assistants regularly to check the weather, wake up on time and find their way around town. As such, AI-powered voice assistants have become an extension of our daily lives.
Cisco believes that the same technology should make our work lives more enjoyable and productive, and launched Spark Assistant.
It has the potential to make sure workers are never late for a meeting because of technical issues or because they can’t find the room. Spark will also help workers record a meeting or write down action items. “The right virtual assistant will help you be more productive, so you can focus on what’s important – getting work done with your team,” said Tim Tuttle, CTO of Cisco’s Cognitive Collaboration Group.
Cisco Spark Assistant is designed to help its customers focus on the meeting and to support meetings before, during and after they happen. The reality is meetings are difficult to start, keep track of and get results from. If technology wasn’t a barrier to meetings, imagine how much more productive a team will function. Spark Assistant will further enhance the meeting experience, Tuttle said. Right now, Spark Assistant can start meetings, join/leave meetings, call someone in the office and navigate and control Cisco Spark devices.
The Spark Assistant works with Cisco Spark Room 70, which is an all-in-one device with a quad camera and 70-inch display with integrated speakers and microphones. It’s good for rooms that seat up to 14 people and works for local meetings as well as for connecting a remote team.
Cisco’s long-term goal for Spark Assistant goes beyond joining and leaving meetings. It will become a full-fledged and secure part of the team, the company said. The assistant will help the team take notes, record meetings and even find and book a meeting room.
In the future, Spark will use and learn from employees’ calendar, company directory and team activity in Cisco Spark Spaces. It will also learn about each organization it supports by processing internal data and gleaning insights from activities that live outside of Cisco Spark.
Personal-use voice assistants are hitting an inflection point for acceptance and practicality. Siri launched in 2011 and was nearly useless at first, and even a year ago accuracy for voice assistants was 80-90%, making them useless to many people. But Accuracy is now hitting 98-99%, making voice assistants practical for personal use—when users need directions or want to know the weather or want to hear Mozart. Cisco wants to lead that trend into the enterprise, which is very different than personal use, Tuttle said.
Most voice assistants on the market are built for consumer use. The things we need at home (“Alexa, play Mozart”) are very different from the things teams need at work “Hey, Spark, pull up the presentation I drafted for this meeting”), Tuttle said. “The biggest problem with enterprise adoption is crossing that chasm from ‘functional at home’ to ‘functional at work.’”
The goal is to make Spark Assistant a virtual team member that can help people get work done and be a part of the meeting. It can chat, track things and give meeting members reminders. “This is a system that might recommend a person who should be included in the meeting because that person can add value to the team. Computers do this well, while humans consistently don’t,” Tuttle said.
Another issue that is really important in the enterprise space is that these voice assistants need to work with the hardware people use at work—the devices they use to share presentations and place calls. Cisco Spark Assistant does just that, and actually uses the hardware to determine who is present in a conference room.