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At its annual WebexOne conference today, enterprise software and networking giant Cisco announced an ambitious new AI strategy aimed at improving communication and collaboration through its Webex video conferencing platform, making it an even more robust rival to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet (most of which have also embraced new AI features in recent months).
WebX’s strategy combines real-time intelligence across text, audio, and video to solve everyday challenges that organizations face with their video conferences, building upon an initial set of AI updates to Webex in March, including meeting summarization.
Further into AI
With its new updates announced at Webex One, Cisco is going dramatically further with new Real-Time Media Models (RMM) to enhance the audio and video experience, as well as an enhanced AI assistant for suggested responses and summary.
The overall goal is to further enable Webex for the new normal of the hybrid workspace. The Cisco Webex portfolio includes both in-room video conferencing hardware as well as software that can run on regular desktop and mobile systems.
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“We’re spending our engineering resources where we are really good, which is audio intelligence, video intelligence and language intelligence,” Jeetu Patel, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Security and Collaboration, told VentureBeat.
Patel said that the goal is to really pull Cisco’s engineering resources together so that people can take out the friction and not feel the distance or not feel the language barriers when they’re communicating with each other.
Webex AI Assistant to provide automated support across platforms
A core element of the updates is the new Webex AI Assistant.
Patel explained that the Webex AI Assistant works across the entirety of the Webex portfolio of services. The assistant will provide automated support such as tone modification when writing messages, suggested responses to received messages, and meeting summaries for those who join late or miss calls.
“Imagine if I came in 10 minutes late to a meeting, wouldn’t it be nice if rather than interrupting the meeting and asking everyone to say what transpired in this meeting thus far if the system knows, I showed up 10 minutes late and it just gives me a summary of the meeting,” Patel said.
The AI assistant feature is similar to those announced by Zoom, Otter.ai, and timeOS. In fact, the integration of AI into video collaboration tools has been an ongoing trend in 2023 with rivals adding their own capabilities.Microsoft Teams integrates an AI copilot and Google has integrated its Workspace AI with Meet.
While Cisco had already been offering meeting summaries in Webex, Patel explained they are enhancing them to incorporate additional contextual details using AI. He noted that sometimes there is nuance with nonverbal communication cues that get missed out with a traditional approach to meeting summaries. Cisco is aiming to capture some of that nuance in a variety of ways.
“We have a capability with video intelligence that can tell you if I step away from a desk, that ‘this person has stepped away and we’ll be right back’,” Patel said.
He added that the enhanced summarization will be able to take that presence awareness and merge it with the transcript. This will allow summaries to note things like a participant stepping away or detect the tone of a conversation.
AI-Powered audio and video enhancements for challenging networks
Cisco is also rolling out new AI-powered audio and video capabilities designed to improve communication quality even on low bandwidth, high latency networks.
Patel explained that Cisco has completely reimagined its audio and video codecs using AI to be up to 16 times more efficient. This will allow high-definition audio and video on as little as 1/16 the bandwidth normally required.It will also enable capabilities like reconstructing dropped packets through generative AI.
“This is completely revolutionary by the way because not only does it change the quality of audio in high latency, high packet loss environments, it also reduces your cost of storage for the audio file,” Patel said.”If you think about a contact center application, every single call gets recorded and stored, you will not be able to store for a fraction of the cost because you actually need less storage.”
Looking forward, Patel emphasized that Cisco will continue to expand the AI-powered capabilities of Webex.
“You should expect us to continue to keep enhancing AI use cases so that every user has an assistant that can actually do things that they were not able to do in the past by themselves, and the communication for them becomes easier and the distance gets to zero,” he said.
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