There's no question that GenAI applications are starting to make a big impact on enterprise applications. Until recently, most of the attention given to GenAI in the business context was focused on text-based Large Language Models (LLMs) and chatbot-style applications that leverage them. However, at their recent Webex One conference, Cisco highlighted how foundational models and other GenAI tools can also profoundly enhance communications and collaboration.
Cisco announced several enhancements related to AI integration across its Webex suite. Many of these involve adding an extra layer of intelligence to Webex, while others focus on audio and video quality improvements. Moreover, Cisco continued its history of collaborating with Apple by introducing enhanced support for Apple devices, including the Apple TV and Apple Watch.
Like its competitors, Cisco initially introduced AI-powered features in Webex, such as automatic transcription and meeting summarization, but the new capabilities they announced demonstrate a new level of sophistication. These updates offer insights into how GenAI-based tools are expected to evolve.
Undoubtedly, the most intriguing development is the introduction of a new type of model that Cisco is calling the Real-Time Media Models (RMMs). These are based on audio and video data. Cisco claims that RMMs can furnish supplemental data about a meeting derived from visual cues, gestures, body language, message tone, and more.
While text-based meeting transcriptions and summaries are valuable, they often miss the subtle yet crucial nuances in how things are said and how participants respond. These nuances can significantly influence how certain ideas or messages are interpreted and conveyed. Cisco believes it can enrich its existing AI-powered meeting notes by integrating RMM data with its current LLM-based text content.
In theory, these sound impressive, but it will take some real-world usage to see how effective they are in capturing and integrating this information into meeting summaries. Regardless, it's an interesting example of how Webex continues to innovate while trying to stay a step ahead of its competition – not an easy task in a market that moves as quickly as video collaboration.
One of the other benefits of leveraging RMMs, according to Cisco, is the ability to create meeting summarization in video form. This allows people to get a movie preview style summary of a meeting, allowing people to easily watch what happened instead of simply reading about it. Again, the proof will be in the pudding, but it's unquestionably a great concept.
RMMs also enhance the Webex AI Assistant. Similar to other digital assistant features, the Webex version is geared to furnish intelligent responses to user queries inputted into a chat-style interface. For instance, users can prompt the Webex AI Assistant to summarize meetings they missed or underscore remarks from specific attendees, like whatever your boss said. The integration of RMM data differentiates this feature by providing deeper context. By analyzing the video feed, future Webex AI Assistant iterations could potentially auto-generate summaries of segments a participant missed, ensuring continuity.
The Webex AI Assistant can also suggest responses for customer service agents, helping them improve their responses, and can even make suggestions in the tone of how things are (or should be) said. Additionally, Cisco mentioned their intent to support multiple LLMs alongside their RMMs within the Webex AI Assistant. Essentially, they could interchange the GenAI engine, optimizing it per customer or employee type.
The final piece of the new Webex AI strategy is an enhanced set of AI audio and video codecs. These tools can dramatically minimize data requirements and, through GenAI, can even recover lost packets, ensuring uninterrupted audio. On the video front, employing super-resolution techniques, akin to those used in AI-image enhancement, allows Webex to upgrade video quality and resolution over subpar connections. The end product should be a smoother, glitch-free meeting experience.
The evolution of meeting and collaboration tools like Webex and its competitors continues at a breakneck pace. It won't be long before rivals like Microsoft, Zoom and Google start to catch up. Still, it's great to see how Cisco is pushing forward the integration of GenAI into Webex and providing an intriguing view into how these technologies continue to evolve.
Bob O'Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech