September 26th, 2017
At Zoomtopia, Zoom’s very first user conference this week, the company announced a series of enhancements to its popular meeting software including the introduction of augmented reality meetings, automated intelligent transcripts and full integration with several partners including Slack and Workplace by Facebook.
Let’s start with AR. While it’s a limited feature for now, it is the beginning of introducing augmented reality to meetings in Zoom. CEO Eric Yuan says it’s for enhancing online teaching, but there is a catch. It requires the teacher be wearing an AR helmet, and the only supported one is from Meta, at least for now. Yuan says regardless, the students see whatever the teacher is seeing in augmented reality, so for example, if the teacher is walking around a representation of the solar system, that’s what the students see in the Zoom platform. It does not require the students to have any special equipment.
The company also announced integration with popular enterprise workflow/collaboration tools including Slack and Workplace by Facebook. Zoom had been working with Slack previously, but this a tighter integration. Users simply type /zoom in Slack and you can invite Slack users to your meetings. Similarly, you type ‘zoom’ in Workplace by Facebook to start Zoom live meeting.
The company also announced its first flirtation with artificial intelligence in the form of automated meeting transcripts, eliminating the need for a note taker and creating a searchable transcript. Using AI, it converts all the speech from a meeting into text and even identifies each speaker.
The online meeting software business has become highly competitive with companies like GoToMeeting (owned by LogMeIn), BlueJeans Network, Fuze and Uber Conference all among the companies offering services. The bigger vendors are also making a play for this market with Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark.
It’s interesting to note that Yuan was one of the early engineers at WebEx before it was sold to Cisco in 2007 for $3.2 billion. His new company has raised over $145 million including a $100 million round, announced in January.