Cisco has added new AI capabilities to Webex Meetings, following the company’s acquisition of Voicea last year. Voicea’s Enterprise Voice Assistant (EVA) speech recognition tech has been integrated into Cisco’s Webex Meetings videoconferencing platform.
New features include automated recording and transcription of conversations, which Cisco said will remove the need for extensive note taking during meetings. Transcripts are searchable, so team members who miss a meeting can quickly locate key topics of discussion without listening through an entire video call.
With real-time transcriptions, closed captions during a video call are also available, while users can tell the Webex Assistant for Meetings to highlight conversation points and create action items for follow-up.
“Voicea users have reported saving more than six hours per week per user with more actionable and efficient meetings — and we believe Webex users will experience similar results,” said Amy Chang, executive vice president, Cisco Collaboration, in a prepared statement.
The Webex Assistant for Meetings features will be open for trials this March, according to a company spokesperson. Pricing has not yet been finalized.
The new features build on existing voice capabilities within Webex. Cisco introduced the Webex Assistant, which lets Webex users kick off conference calls with voice commands, in 2017, following the $125 million acquisition of conversational AI startup MindMeld. Cisco also announced on Tuesday that the Webex Assistant is now available in Spanish.
Cisco is not alone in using AI to improve meetings. Cisco rival Microsoft has added automated transcriptions and live captioning to its Teams app, while Zoom and Google’s Hangouts Meet app have similar features.
“My thoughts are that Cisco is playing catch-up,” said Timothy Banting, a principal analyst at Ovum. “While Voicera is a good acquisition, other vendors such as Microsoft have had this capability for some time and transcription support for a number of languages.”
He said that Cisco’s extensive collaboration portfolio — which includes a range of hosted and cloud platforms for enterprise calls and instant messaging — can create a challenge in terms of balancing priorities and resources for product development. This is the case for several unified communications vendors that compete with rivals that sell a single product. “This crisis of prioritization — trying to spread resources between numerous platforms — is going to continue to challenge traditional UC vendors until they make some tough strategic choices and end-of-life underperforming products,” said Banting.
Cisco also announced that the Voicea technology will be integrated with Google Cloud’s Contact Center AI (CCAI) platform. This provides customer service reps with call transcripts and summaries to ensure that action items are addressed. Call highlights are then automatically synced with customer relationship management (CRM) systems to enable easy reference for past support issues.
Among the other announcements at the Cisco Live Europe event in Barcelona this week are the new Webex Room USB video device to enable Webex access in smaller “huddle rooms.” Webex Teams users will also have the option to store data outside of the U.S. for the first time, with the ability to store group messaging data in Cisco’s European data centers.