Here now’s Cisco Spark Assistant, a voice assistant for company meetings

Cisco has announced the launch of Cisco Spark Assistant, an enterprise-ready voice assistant for meetings. Unveiled at the Cisco Partner Summit, the Cisco Spark Assistant will first be available on the Cisco Spark Room Series portfolio, including the new Cisco Spark Room 70, also announced at the summit.

Cisco Spark Assistant is the latest innovation on the Cisco Spark platform. Unlike all-purpose voice assistants, Cisco Spark Assistant has one goal: to help you have great meetings that run more smoothly.

(TOP: Screenshot of Cisco Spark Assistant promo video from Cisco blog).

“During the next few years, AI meeting bots will be joining our work teams. When they do, people will be able to ditch the drudgery of meeting setup and other logistics to become more creative than ever,” said Rowan Trollope, SVP and GM, Applications Group, Cisco. “The future of great meetings is Spark with AI and our partners have an incredible opportunity to help customers take advantage of this game-changing technology.”

The launch of the Cisco Spark Assistant comes at time when AI-powered voice assistants are slowly changing the way people live, with hundreds of millions of people using the solutions to regularly check the weather, wake up on time, and find their way around town. However, up until now, there have been no virtual assistants to help people at work.

The Cisco Spark Assistant will be released phases, starting early next year. In the first phase, a small group of customers will use select features.

Here is what you will be able to do in phase one:

  • Start your meeting without any typing or dialing:
    • “Hey, Spark. Join the meeting.”
    • “Hey, Spark. I want to start the meeting.”
    • “Hey, Spark. Let’s get started.”
  • Effortlessly join your own Cisco WebEx personal meeting room or one of your co-workers’ rooms:
    • “Hey, Spark. Call my meeting room.”
    • “Hey, Spark. Call Victor’s PMR.”
    • “Hey, Spark. Call Michael’s meeting room.”
  • Quickly call anyone in your organization without lifting a finger:
  • “Hey, Spark. Call Sydney.”
  • Control your Cisco Spark endpoint without getting out of your chair:
  • “Hey, Spark. End the meeting.”

Cisco Spark Assistant will use feedback from this trial to make itself smarter. Eventually it will be able to do much more; for example, it will be able to assign action items and create meeting summaries.

A lot needs to go right for voice assistants to be truly helpful in meetings. The response needs to be lightning fast and super accurate every time you say “Hey, Spark”. To make sure this happens, the Cisco Spark Assistant has been built with: machine-learning technology from MindMeld (acquired by Cisco earlier this year); speech recognition technology; natural language understanding; question answering and dialogue management capabilities.

Cisco Spark Assistant will first be available on the new Cisco Spark Room 70, which replaces one of the firm’s top-selling video systems, the MX800. Just as Cisco Spark Assistant will take on more tasks over time, it will also be available across all Cisco Spark clients and hardware devices over time.

Part of the Cisco Spark Room Series, Cisco Spark Room 70 features: 70″ 4K screens (in both single and dual screen models); industrial design and great audio and video; and Quad 5k cameras, with double the cameras packed  into half the space (compared to the MX800). One of the cameras captures the entire room at all times, making intelligent framing and best overview highly responsive and human. The cameras also enable face recognition and people count. One can register the system on the premises or to Cisco Spark through the Cisco Collaboration Cloud.

Spark Assistant takes advantage of the meeting room endpoints’ advancements such as intelligent proximity, speaker tracking and real-time face recognition, which enable it to see and hear. As a result, Cisco Spark Assistant knows who enters the room, who leaves the room and who is speaking.

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