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AI can assist foster inclusion as a part of hybrid paintings, Zoom says


Video communications company Zoom is using artificial intelligence to improve workplace inclusion as it continues to ride the wave of evolving workplace habits in a post-Covid era, according to its chief operating officer.

Zoom was “doing AI before it was cool”, Aparna Bawa said this week at the 2024 World Governments Summit in Dubai, while speaking about innovations in borderless work environments.

“Our virtual backgrounds, our noise suppression feature … those already have AI built in,” she said, before pivoting to how AI could enhance language transcription features in Zoom’s suite of communication and meeting tools.

“We are making our AI much more inclusive by increasing the amount of languages that we’re focused on, and the capability of large language models right now beyond English, focusing on some of the various dialects and specific accents that can make it difficult to address a global population,” Ms Bawa said.

The idea of workplace inclusion has taken on many forms, both during the pandemic, which fuelled a shift to working from home, and even after the pandemic, with a hybrid working model showing that it has staying power.

That hybrid working model has prompted countless conversations and debates about workplace biases benefiting those who continue to work from the office, leaving those who work remotely to sometimes be overlooked.

The idea of proximity bias in the workplace, as a result, has started to gain traction.

Addressing some of those trends and concerns, Ali Matar, LinkedIn’s head of Europe, Middle East and Africa emerging markets, said: “There is a natural bias growing toward those that you see on a daily basis”, referring to patterns observed by the work-based social network.

“If you are the type of manager who is more present in the office, probably you’ll have a bias towards the people you are seeing,” he added.

Zoom, which gained huge popularity during the pandemic when many companies began using its video conferencing software, has been placed in a unique position of trying to find solutions to increase teamwork as the traditional workplace models continue to shift.

Ms Bawa said that during the shift, the way people show up to work has changed for good, which in turn has informed Zoom as to what features to focus on across its various products.

“We’re focused on the mission of making humans more effective and productive,” Ms Bawa said, noting that AI implementations from Zoom would not replace human beings but, rather, would give time back to people and allow them to focus on other tasks.

In 2023, the company launched its AI Companion, a generative AI assistant that allows users to quickly summarise meetings they may have not been able to attend fully, organise chat threads, and assist with drafting messages, among other features.

“If you’re in a team chat situation and you wake up in the morning and your colleagues in a different time zone have already exchanged 100 messages, it can summarise the chat for you and move the conversation forward,” Ms Bawa said.

Can Zoom maintain dominance?

Various estimates show Zoom with a commanding lead in the video conference space, with a 57 per cent market share, according to Statista.

That dominance, however, is far from certain as other companies continue trying to chip away at Zoom’s lead.

Microsoft Teams has methodically gained traction, and Google Meet has been met with relative success to some extent.

When asked about the competitive video conference and worker collaboration landscape, Ms Bawa did not mention any of Zoom’s potential challengers, but reflected on why she felt Zoom has endured beyond the pandemic.

“We focus on delighting the customer and providing customer happiness,” she said, adding that Zoom continues to prioritise user feedback.

“We reserve a lot of development time … more than other tech companies, I would say, in making our product better based on feedback, and our turnaround time is really quick.”

Updated: February 14, 2024, 9:48 AM

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