We have spoken. What we want in the video conference calls of the future is…artificial intelligence. A recent industry survey of video conference users found that AI in communication is the way of the future and the most highly anticipated aspect of the technology’s evolution.
So, are we lazy? Do we think machines are better thinkers than us? Do we think they’re better organized than us? Do we want these smart machines to provide us with answers, or just do the housekeeping that leaves the important stuff, like the talking, to us?
What do we expect AI will bring to video calls?
If you look at what the AI assistants currently being implemented in video calling roles are doing, you’d think their future lies at the periphery. If, however, you make a little room for machine growth, then AI assistants and robots could become integral players in our video calling futures.
Zoom’s Video Conferencing Questions
The interest in AI’s role in the future of video conferencing was revealed in a recent survey conducted by vendor Zoom. The popular platform, which has won positive reviews from VC Daily, surveyed more than 1000 of its users and asked them about their vision for the future of visual communication.
These kinds of commercial surveys don’t usually carry the accuracy of academic research, and can be seen as a vehicle to generate some easy media hits–such as a HighFive survey that found that 11% of people video conferencing don’t wear pants during a live call. Nonetheless, the results are worth a quick summary:
- On average, respondents spent between 8 and 11 hours a week in meetings
- 65% of respondents expected AI to save them an hour of work a week
- 53% believe virtual reality will have a positive impact on business
- 67% believe augmented reality will have the same impact
- 73% of respondents believe AI will have a positive impact on their physical and virtual meetings
All of these figures–the last one in particular–are interesting. It seems the appeal lies in the potential for machines to make our lives easier. That’s a future we can already glimpse through AI apps that are currently available.
Virtual Meeting Assistants
There is a lot of speculation and wild dreams about what AI will eventually bring to our lives. If all you’re asking for is time savings and smoother video meetings, however, your dreams are already coming true. Earlier this year, video conferencing vendor BlueJeans introduced an AI video assistant to their service to take care of the minutes during meetings. More than a virtual stenographer, the Eva assistant can record, store, and categorize video meetings, with more functions to come. More impressively, Eva has enough awareness to automatically detect and record significant meeting moments and highlight these in its reports. Several platforms have introduced a version of this function.
Other (mostly very specialized) smart video assistants are also available to take care of the finer details of a video meeting:
- Cisco has a bot to help you use voice commands to control a meeting and recognize people in that meeting through their personal devices.
- WebEx comes with an AI assistant that detects background noise and prompts callers to mute their microphones.
- Google’s @meet app can make suggestions for future meetings by listening in to the current one.
Elsewhere, platforms like Skype have added collections of chatbots and smart apps that can do the rote work of gathering files, listening for and acting on verbal cues, and linking a live meeting to the wider internet. Hardware manufacturers, too, have built into their products the ability to react intelligently to their surroundings. Logitech’s new Rally video conferencing system has automated everything from framing and lighting to focus and noise filtering.
Those examples are all about making video meetings more efficient. When, though, will AI make a valued, unprompted contribution to the discussion at hand?
Smart Machines as Video Calling Guests
It has been said that a computer capable of telling an original joke is the final frontier of artificial intelligence. We’d settle for one that can make a worthwhile, unprompted comment during a video conferencing meeting.
Video offers AI its easiest access to a live meeting as it can exist on the same digital plain as its human colleagues. In fact, with a friendly avatar attached, it could even sit in its own chat window. In theory, the machine should be able to digest the same pre-meeting materials as its human equivalents and have greater access to all the notes and plans that are relevant to the call. It should be able to keep the project goals at the center of its robot reasoning, and, assuming it can collate and process reams of information quicker than the human mind, be able to connect current conversation with an eventual outcome.
The biggest leap for AI in communication would be for the machines to draw a connection between intermediate challenges and the overall goal. Whether through the study of previous projects or the analysis of the statistical success of specific approaches, a computer could potentially be capable of offering us a unique way forward.
It’s impossible to know exactly what excited those Zoom users about AI, but we’d love to one day be offered a unique solution to a specific problem by the virtual assistant in our video conference. Forget making our lives easier, what if AI could give us the answers?