Virtual assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana and others have been a helpful aide in the lives of many consumers. These assistants help users buy goods, schedule activities and turn appliances on and off.
In recent years, these artificially intelligent assistants have become part of the workplace. Amazon launched Alexa for Business in 2018 and Cortana is now becoming a larger part of the Microsoft 365 and Teams experience.
Now, enter COVID-19, and there’s an even greater demand for these assistants to help streamline virtual meetings and allow for contactless interaction with conference room infrastructure.
That led to Logitech and Amazon partnering up on an integration that aims to help enterprise customers prepare for hybrid work environments in Logitech Zoom Rooms. The integration incorporates Amazon Web Services’ intelligent assistant into the meeting room for use with several Logitech solutions, including the Logitech Tap controller, Mini PC and Zoom-certified Logitech Rally or MeetUp conferencecam.
Geno Zahari, the director of appliances and GTM at Logitech, said in an interview with Commercial Integrator that COVID-19 has presented a use case for the concept that was once considered to be primarily complimentary in nature.
Within the Logitech Zoom Rooms solution, Alexa for Business lets users schedule and reserve meeting rooms, start meetings, end meetings and more.
However, Logitech and AWS were developed the integration well before COVID-19 hit. The integration was originally intended to help organizations with a large suite of conference rooms help manage that real estate.
“It feeds right into that,” Zahari says.
Rather than needing another Alexa device, microphones on Logitech Zoom Room devices can detect Alexa voice commands.
“It’s kind of a nice story of centralizing and leveraging what’s already there,” Zahari says.
Virtual Assistants are becoming part of the digital workforce
In January 2019, Gartner Research published a study that found the use of virtual assistants in the workplace is growing.
The research organization predicted that 25% of digital workers will use a virtual employee assistant on a daily basis by 2021. That’s up from less than 2% in 2019.
“We expect VEAs to be used by an increasing number of organizations over the next three years,” said Annette Jump, senior director at Gartner. “Industries such as insurance and financial services are showing strong interest in piloting VEAs internally. We’ve also witnessed VAs being used in IT, customer service and information queries.”
Examples include Amazon’s Alexa for Business helping employees delegate tasks such as scheduling meetings and logistics operations, and Nokia’s MIKA helping engineers find answers as they perform complex tasks or diagnose problems. “Ultimately, VAs used in the workplace and VEAs will increase employee productivity and foster constructive engagement,” added Ms. Jump.
What Gartner didn’t take into consideration, however, was the demand for contactless technology coupled with the demand for videoconferencing and unified communications and collaboration amid a globa pandemic.
Prior to Logitech’s integration with Alexa, videoconferencing provider Lifesize brought what it says was the industry’s first native integration with Alexa for Business.
That included a wide range ofproductivity-boosting voice-acticated controls for existing Lifesize meeting room systems without requiring additional hardware.
That was similar to the Logitech integration, but also included the possibility to control other appliances like lighting and power shades.
In July, Microsoft announced that it would be bringing its virtual assistant Cortana to the Teams mobile app to help users make calls. The company is also releasing Teams-dedicated displays through Lenovo and Yealink with Cortana built in for hybrid work environments.
And, Cortana will also be enabled for Microsoft Teams Room devices to in-room participants can ask Cortana to join and leave a meeting, add a participant from the address book to a meeting, and more.