Zoom: A Bright Future for AI in the Workplace

Zoom Video Communications (Zoom) recently hosted a Work Transformation Summit for the Asia-Pacific region to share some insightful sessions, including practical tips on revolutionising daily tasks with artificial intelligence, and how to work smarter in today’s connected world.

Zoom Chief Technology Officer delivered the keynote and shared about how AI, particularly generative AI, still has a long way to go and how there is still much more potential benefit it can provide in the working environment.

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Speaking about the possible future capabilities of Zoom’s AI Companion feature, Huang said: “I believe that we will make the whole meeting experience much better. This impact will move beyond just the meeting, so for people to communicate and collaborate, Zoom One will be the dominant platform because of the AI Companion. I think the AI capability will be truly a ‘Companion’ for your daily life; will be a great friend and adviser, not just taking the minutes, but can advise you to be a better person and make better decisions. That’s a long way away.”

Huang said this during the session which also featured The Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson at the virtual event entitled “Unlock the true potential of AI in your workflows”.

Opening the summit, Zoom Head of APAC Ricky Kapur stated that beyond Zoom’s AI Companion helping to automate processes associated with meetings such as minutes or summaries, Zoom has also introduced several new capabilities to help employees communicate more seamlessly save time in their workday, collaborate better, get higher productivity, and be more effective in the workplace.

“If you’re short on time, and have a mountain of team chat messages to catch up on, AI Companion can now quickly summarise your individual chat threads, helping you get context faster and respond more efficiently. You can compose emails faster using Zoom Mail, with the flexibility to adjust for tone and length. AI Companion can be seamlessly integrated with Zoom Mail, even with Microsoft Outlook or Gmail. And you can generate ideas on a Zoom Whiteboard based on your prompt, helping you kickstart brainstorming sessions.”

The value of AI in the workplace is far more pronounced in the Asia Pacific region, Kapur added. “In our recent ‘AI in the Workplace’ report, leaders and employees alike in APAC markets had not only more positive sentiments towards AI, but also showed more excitement about the use of AI at work in comparison to US and European counterparts.

“75% of leaders say that teams collaborate better and make better decisions, and 74% say they’re able to work better with others across different locations. The key takeaway was that saving time is a top benefit of AI.”

Sharing some of his personal insight and the vision for what’s coming in regards to generative AI for the world as a whole, Huang stated that Zoom had discovered that by federating the best AIs available, the company was able to offer state-of-the-art AI quality at less than 10% of the inference costs of comparable AI models.

“We can offer AI Companion at no cost to our paid customers. Essentially, we’ve democratised the AI capability. We use 6% the inference cost of GPT-4 while achieving comparable quality. That’s a remarkable unmatched AI innovation.”

Responding to Thompson’s query about how Zoom’s federated approach enabled Zoom to achieve that level of efficiency, Huang used the metaphor of a company’s leadership team, with Zoom as the CEO of the company.

“You have a leadership team, and everyone’s got different strengths. So we combine those strengths together in an orchestrated, consistent way. For the simple tasks, we use the simple model; for the harder tasks, we use the more advanced model. We orchestrate this in a cohesive way to reduce costs and improve quality.”

Zoom AI Companion, Huang noted, is currently focused around meetings. “When people go to the meeting, they really want to solve problems. It’s unlike an email or calendar or a Word document; a meeting is not documented. So when people leave the meeting, if they didn’t take notes, they might forget some of the key things. That have a direct impact to productivity and to the follow-ups.

“With Zoom AI Companion, every meeting will have automatic meeting minutes generated by AI. You don’t need to bring someone to the meeting to take notes on your behalf. You can focus on solving the problem. Moreover, if you are distracted or you misheard something you can just check with Zoom AI Companion.”

Huang reiterated that Zoom took user data privacy very seriously as of highest priority. “Zoom does not use any content of meetings to train our AI. We take whatever is spoken in the meeting, process that, and deliver the summary on your behalf. Only you and your attendees have access to data summarisation or whatever was discussed. So that is our commitment.

“We only keep the transcript for debugging purposes; after a short period of time, we completely remove all of them. If you have a meeting, we will not have access to the content unless you request Zoom to debug the meeting. Without the customer’s request, nobody in Zoom can access the data.”

Huang also agreed with Thompson that, in future, the AI companion could look at peoples’ gestures, facial expressions and from there give them advice on how they should present during meetings.

“Yes; with your consent, I believe that AI Companion will really be your best friend. I hope that day is going to come, and I really feel that the capabilities are getting there, because the large language models can read all that. Much better AI quality can give you much better advice.”

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