21st March 2019 Digital Workplace Meetings By

Cisco Webex Assistant: First impressions and why use it

This week Cisco has announced the first stage in their artificial intelligence (AI) journey, with the launch of Cognitive Collaboration. It comes as no surprise that AI would eventually fit into the Webex suite after Cisco’s acquisition of MindMeld in 2017. AI is finally bringing tangible value to the digital workplace through process automation, smart assistance, and rapid sensemaking.

Webex Assistant is only a small part of their Cognitive Collaboration offering; an AI-powered voice assistant. Think Alexa, Cortana, or Siri for the workplace. It’s taking the Webex Meeting experience to a new level, with the use of natural conversation to help you manage your Webex Meetings in any enabled room kit.

How does Webex Assistant work?

Webex Assistant can help you make meetings and collaboration simple. Start a meeting, join a personal room, or even call a person directly from any enabled room kit device. It can even answer questions such as, “Will AI take over the world?”. The wake words “OK Webex” or “Hey, Webex” get your Webex Assistants attention, followed by your command. You can find out more about the commands available by saying “OK Webex, what can you do?” 

We expect the list of commands to grow in the coming months to include the likes of calendar scheduling, along with the devices Webex Assistant is available on, and further integrations.

Why use Webex Assistant?

We’ve all rushed into a meeting room with only a few minutes spare before the meeting starts, only to be faced with a mass of cables and no instructions on how to connect a laptop to get the meeting started. With Webex Assistant, Cisco claims this stress will be eliminated, with the simple phrase “OK Webex, start the meeting”.  It’s these simple use cases that Cisco aims to give solutions for with their first wave of AI.

Is Webex Assistant secure?

In a word, yes. Cisco claims that Webex Assistant only listens for the “wake word” and stops listening when it detects silence or times out. They are also keen to stress that they don’t keep any of your data to power their machine learning. And, if you do choose to turn Webex Assistant off, all data is deleted immediately. All with the standard security backing of Cisco’s Webex products.

How can I get Webex Assistant?

Webex Assistant is only compatible with the latest Cisco Webex Room Series devices at the moment, but they have plans to expand its range with more devices and more features being supported in the future. It can easily be enabled through the Control Hub by any system admin in just a few clicks and they have even prepared Webex Assistant adoption toolkit, supported by the team at Sei Mani’s depth of knowledge in the digital workplace and workplace AI. The toolkit can help you and your business get the most out of Webex Assistant, it includes use cases, promotional assets, quick starts guides and much more.

Our Webex Assistant review

We’ve been lucky enough to have seen Webex Assistant in action and really like it. It takes simple actions and improves the user experience through voice commands. And you can’t put money on the efficiencies and productivity that will be added.

Of course, tightening up of commands, such as the “Volume up/down” command, which at the moment is a little clunky. We’re looking forward to seeing the developments with Webex Assistant and the impacts that it can have on the digital workplace. I’m sure we’ll all be wondering how we ever managed without Webex Assistant in the not too distant future. 

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