Cisco is launching an enterprise-ready voice assistant designed to streamline meetings, the company announced Thursday at its Partner Summit.

Billed by the company as the first AI-powered assistant meant for businesses, the Cisco Spark Assistant helps users call others in their organization, as well as start, end, or join meetings without typing or dialing according to a Cisco press release.

Using MindMeld’s machine learning technology, the assistant takes the voice assistant–commonly used for personal daily activities–brings it to the conference room. Leaving the call-in process up to AI may reduce the chance of human error and delay while expediting the process.

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“During the next few years, AI meeting bots will be joining our work teams. When they do, people will be able to ditch the drudgery of meeting setup and other logistics to become more creative than ever,” Rowan Trollope, general manager of Cisco’s Applications Group, said in the press release.

The assistant will be released in phases, beginning with the Cisco Spark Room 70 early in 2018. Available in multiple size models, Spark Rooms are conference rooms outfitted by Cisco with smart screens and cameras, according to Cisco’s website. The service will eventually roll out to all Spark clients and devices, but a timeframe for that wasn’t released.

More like a trial, the first phase will only include a small group of users, and they will only have select features. Much like with Alexa or other voice assistants, the initial users can say, “Hey, Spark,” and then start the meeting or call someone.

User feedback from the first phase will be used to make the assistant smarter, the release said. Additional features, like creating meeting summaries and assigning tasks, are in the works, according to the release.

Some businesses are already using voice-activated devices to help their companies, using things like Alexa skills to make work orders or fetch data. But those assistants are personal devices programmed to help with business efforts. Cisco delivers over 50 billion minutes of meetings each year, and used that knowledge to design a device specifically for enterprises.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Cisco announced its first voice assistant created for enterprise use, initially focusing specifically on meetings.
  2. Users will be able to start, join, and end meetings with just their voice. They will also be able to call anyone in their organization via the assistant, called Cisco Spark Assistant.
  3. The assistant, which will start to release in early 2018, can help streamline business meetings, allowing users to skip mundane tasks so they can focus on the meeting itself.

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