Image credits: Nicola Economou/Norphoto/Getty Images
To stay competitive in the crowded video conferencing market, Zoom is updating and rebranding many of its AI-powered features, including the generative AI assistant formerly known as Zoom IQ.
The news follows controversy over changes to Zoom’s terms of service, which imply that Zoom reserves the right to use customers’ videos to train its AI tools and models. In response to the negative backlash, Zoom has updated its policy to explicitly state that “communication-like” customer data will not be used to train AI apps and services for Zoom or its third-party partners.
The Software Freedom Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that provides support and legal services for open source projects, recently called on developers to abandon Zoom due to terms of service changes.
“Zoom’s goal is to invest in AI-driven innovation that enhances user experience and productivity while prioritizing trust, safety, and privacy,” Zoom wrote in a press release shared with TechCrunch. In August, Zoom announced that it does not use any audio, video, chat, screen sharing, attachments, or other similar communications for clients.
Client content (such as survey results, whiteboards, or feedback) to train Zoom’s or third-party AI models.
Zoom AI Companion
The rebranded Zoom IQ, called AI Companion, is powered by the same mix of technologies as Zoom IQ: Zoom’s in-house generative AI along with AI models from vendors including Meta, OpenAI and Anthropic. But its scope is expanding to more corners of the Zoom ecosystem, including Zoom Whiteboard, Zoom Team Chat, and Zoom Mail.
Perhaps the biggest news is that Zoom is acquiring what is essentially a ChatGPT-like bot via an AI Companion. In the spring of 2024, Zoom will get a chat interface that allows users to chat directly with an AI Companion, asking questions about past meetings and conversations as well as taking actions on their behalf.
For example, users will be able to query the AI Companion for the status of projects, pull up written meetings, chats, whiteboards, emails, documents, and even third-party apps. They will be able to ask AI Companion questions during the meeting to learn about key points, create and submit support tickets, and craft responses to inquiries. And – as was possible with Zoom IQ – they’ll be able to ask the AI Companion to summarize meetings, automatically select action items, and show next steps.
Also starting next spring, the AI Companion will provide “real-time feedback” on people’s meeting attendance as well as training in their speaking and presentation skills.
It’s not a feature that every user is likely to welcome — particularly those who worry about Zoom’s possible ulterior motives around artificial intelligence. But Zoom notes that real-time feedback, along with other capabilities of the AI Companion, can be turned off at any time by the account owner or administrator.
Elsewhere, in Zoom Team Chat, Zoom’s messaging app, users will soon (in a few weeks’ time) have the option to summarize chat threads through an AI Companion – a feature that Zoom IQ also offers. (This reporter questions AI’s summarizing skills, but I’ll withhold judgment until I see Zoom technology in action.) By early 2024, users will have the ability to autocomplete chat sentences — similar to the AI of Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. . -Generate responses, as promised with Zoom IQ – and schedule meetings from chat.
In a previously reported feature, Zoom Whiteboard, Zoom’s collaborative whiteboard tool, will be able to create images and fill in templates thanks to an AI Companion in spring 2024. It’s not clear which image generation model will power this capability, but the results should be consistent. With text-to-image tools like OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 and MidJourney. (Whether it will have content filters or bias mitigations of any kind is another matter.)
In early fall, users of Zoom’s email client, Zoom Mail, will be able to get AI-generated email suggestions from the AI Companion — as with Zoom IQ. And by spring 2024, Zoom users will have a way to add meeting summaries to the platform’s note-taking app, notes, and summarize text and call threads from the Zoom Phone Zoom Phone service.
Many, if not most, of the AI Companion’s features will be located in the side panel of the Zoom app. But not for all users. Only paying Zoom customers will be able to access it once the live broadcast has gone live.
Zoom Revenue Accelerator
In today’s second Zoom rebrand, Zoom IQ for Sales, the Zoom sales assistant tool, is the Zoom Revenue Accelerator.
Zoom IQ for Sales was not well received at launch, with critics arguing that the sentiment analysis algorithms used in the feature were fundamentally flawed. More than two dozen rights groups have called on Zoom to rescind its efforts to explore what it called “inaccurate” and “untested” technology.
Zoom didn’t finally quit Zoom IQ for sales. Instead, it has shifted the tool’s feature set from sentiment analysis to more mundane use cases—and continues to do so, by all appearances.
Zoom announced several new capabilities coming to Revenue Accelerator, including a “virtual coach” to simulate conversations to prepare and train members of the sales force. The virtual trainer can evaluate the performance of salespeople in product presentation using different sales methodologies, similar to other AI-powered sales training platforms in the market.
Deal risk signals come into the Revenue Accelerator, as well as allowing sales team members to use a rules-based engine to send alerts if a deal doesn’t go ahead within a specified period of time. Another upcoming feature, Discover by Month, will track how competitors are mentioned on calls and summarize trends on a monthly basis.
Zoom’s renewals come at a pivotal moment for the tech giant, which faced its first quarterly loss of $108 million since 2018 in its fourth-quarter results of fiscal 2023. And last February, Zoom laid off 15% of its employees, or about 1,300 people, and blamed On slumping demand after the pandemic and increased competition from Microsoft, Cisco, Webex, Slack, and others. (Zoom was a major beneficiary of the pandemic, when social distancing rules made video conferencing an essential tool.)
Zoom’s outlook got a little rosier for the April quarter as the company underwent a belt-tightening. And while Zoom reported the slowest quarterly growth ever, with a 3% decline in online revenue, it raised its annual revenue forecast to between $4.47 billion and $4.49 billion, up about 2% from $4.44 billion to $4.46 billion.