Cisco to Give Spark Collaboration Service Gift of Speech

Mike Vizard

Not many people especially like having to attend meetings, but Cisco is at least trying to make setting one up and dialing in a whole lot simpler. Cisco at a Cisco Partner Summit 2017 conference today announced it will be adding a voice assistant to the Cisco Spark collaboration cloud service that end users can employ to set up and start meetings.

Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president and CTO for collaboration at Cisco, says Cisco is focused on employing algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence to automate routine tasks such as having to physically dial a phone number. Instead, end users will just ask Cisco Spark Assistant to call someone for them.

Rosenberg says end users will also be able to assign an instance of Cisco Spark Assistant to specific projects.

“Each team can have their own digital assistant,” says Rosenberg.

Cisco Spark Assistant will require organizations to have access to Cisco Spark Room Series endpoints. The latest addition to the lineup unveiled today is Cisco Spark Room 70, a 70-in. display capable of supporting the 4K video standard that is based on graphics processor units (GPUs) from NVIDIA. The processor is core to the room’s ability to process the algorithms that enable Cisco Spark Assistant.

Because Cisco Spark is intended to support multiple users, Cisco had to develop its own digital assistant technology versus opting to rely on digital assistants such as Apple Siri or Microsoft Cortana.

Naturally, Cisco is not the only provider of cloud-based collaboration software racing to add voice-enabled digital assistants to their service. But Cisco Spark Assistant is another example of how compute resources in the cloud are being employed to drive applications incorporating machine learning algorithms to automate a specific function. It’s unclear over time just how smart these digital assistants will become. But the one thing for certain is that anytime a person walks into a room, chances are high that something, rather than someone, is watching and listening.


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