June 13, 2024
Zoom's AI Companion can summarize meetings for late attendees


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Zoom, the videoconferencing and messaging platform, is getting into the built-in generative AI assistant game, according to a blog post on Tuesday. It said it will rebrand its Zoom IQ as the Zoom AI Companion and users already subscribed to the paid services will have access to the new features right away.

Mapping to the challenges found in a normal workday, Zoom says its “AI Companion” can equip users with contextual and useful intelligence. 

What Zoom’s AI Companion offers

According to the blog post, the AI assistant can help compose chat responses, saving time and allowing users to focus on important projects. If someone joins a meeting late, AI Companion can catch them up by summarizing the discussions. It can also answer specific questions about meeting content and automatically generate summaries, identify important information, and create next steps for attendees.

Zoom plans to expand AI Companion’s capabilities in the future. Users will be able to interact with the assistant through natural language queries and receive help with various tasks, such as meeting preparation, summarizing chat messages, consolidating meeting summaries, composing emails and finding relevant documents. Additionally, AI Companion will assist in filing support tickets, providing real-time information during meetings, and analyzing phone calls and messages.

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As well, the post outlined some new details on how Zoom uses a “federated approach” to its AI model selection. It hopes the AI Companion will deliver improved results by “dynamically incorporating Zoom’s own large language model (LLM) in addition to Meta Llama 2, OpenAI, and Anthropic,’ it said. 

Because of this strategy, Zoom users avoid the challenge of picking the right model to enjoy the latest features and benefits. 

AI assistant training data remains controversial 

The release of the AI assistant follows public outcry after Zoom updated its terms of services to include details on how it intends on using data collected to train the models which will power the automated processes. Originally, the terms were interpreted to say that Zoom could leverage the data generated by the people who use the platform and there would be no way to opt out.

In a blog post written to respond to the uproar, Zoom said that “as part of our commitment to transparency and user control, we are providing clarity on our approach to two essential aspects of our services: Zoom’s AI features and customer content sharing for product improvement purposes. Our goal is to enable Zoom account owners and administrators to have control over these features and decisions, and we’re here to shed light on how we do that.” 

Those points were reiterated in the post announcing the AI assistant: “Zoom does not use any of your audio, video, chat, screen sharing, attachments, or other communications like customer content (such as poll results, whiteboard, and reactions) to train Zoom’s or third-party artificial intelligence models,” it read. 

Disabled by default

In the initial release of the Zoom AI Companion, admins and account operators will be able to turn on and off certain AI-enable features and all capabilities will be disabled by default. Even when the features are turned on by account admins, hosts will have further fine grained controls found in each meeting. Participants in the meetings will also get to see the status of the in-use AI tools.

Zoom is no stranger to controversies around the use of AI in its products. In April 2022, the company came under fire after saying it might soon include emotion AI features in its sales-targeted products. A nonprofit advocacy group, Fight for the Future, published an open letter to the company saying that Zoom’s possible offering would be a “major breach of user trust,” is “inherently biased,” and “a marketing gimmick.”

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