Science & Technology

Zoom debuts new VR and enterprise features at Zoomtopia 2021

Zoom Video Communications Inc. today announced a raft of product updates at its virtual Zoomtopia 2021 event, including an upcoming virtual reality capability and several major enhancements to its enterprise feature set. 

Some of the updates will become available in the coming weeks, while others aren’t scheduled to launch until next year.

One of the most significant announcements from Zoomtopia 2021 is Zoom Video Engagement Center. Set to arrive in early 2022, it’s described as a cloud-based offering that will allow companies to harness Zoom’s videoconferencing capabilities to provide technical support and sales assistance for customers. 

Zoom Video Engagement Center can be integrated into a company’s own web applications to let users connect with customer support teams directly through the interface, according to Zoom. The offering will also work with mobile apps. Zoom will provide templates to make integrating the offering into applications easier, as well as ”AI to automate, optimize and drive productivity,” Heidi Elmore, Zoom’s head of unified communications as a service, wrote in a blog post.

“We plan to launch Zoom VEC early next year with select templates ready for immediate consumption,” Elmore added. “Additional templates will be developed across horizontal use cases or additional vertical solutions, but it’s our vision to offer templates that enable any organization to use Zoom VEC.”

Zoom today also debuted enhancements for a number of existing products and features. One of the most significant updates is set to arrive to the Zoom Whiteboard virtual collaboration canvas.

Zoom is teaming up with Facebook Inc. to make Zoom Whiteboard available in the social network’s Oculus virtual reality headsets. Users will gain the ability to collaborate on documents and other files in a virtual room through Oculus Horizons Workrooms, a VR collaboration app available with Oculus headsets. 

Zoom Whiteboard is receiving a number of other new features as well. Zoom is adding sticky notes to make sharing important information easier. Moreover, users will gain the ability to add embedded comments to any part of a document displayed in Zoom Whiteboard, as well as find earlier drafts of the document.

Coming Soon: A Whole New Way to Collaborate Using Zoom Whiteboard

Two more products set to receive updates are Zoom Phone and Zoom Rooms. Zoom Phone is the company’s cloud-based phone system, while Zoom Rooms is its videoconferencing offering for conference rooms.

Zoom Phone will receive an end-to-end encryption option aimed at cybersecurity-conscious organizations. With end-to-end encryption, data traffic is scrambled before it leaves a user’s device and is only decrypted once it arrives at the intended destination. Because the traffic travels through Zoom’s servers in an encrypted form, not even the company itself can decipher the data.

Zoom Rooms, in turn, is being upgraded with a tool that will enable employees to book desks and work spaces on a self-service basis when they come into the office. The tool provides an interactive office map through which staffers can find available desks.

Eventually, Zoom Rooms will also allow users to “select seats or arrangements recommended by Zoom’s AI,” Elmore wrote. The planned AI capability is aimed at “giving organizations the ability to reconfigure their workspaces for flexible working.”

Alongside the enterprise-focused updates, Zoom previewed several other upcoming enhancements that will roll out to all versions of its videoconferencing platform. The main highlight is an upgrade of the platform’s automated meeting transcription and live translation features. The company plans to extend the automated transcription capability to 30 languages, while expanding the number of languages for which live translation is available to 12.

The features reportedly use machine learning technology that Zoom obtained through the acquisition of AI startup Kites GmbH. Kites, which was founded in 2015 to commercialize AI research carried out by its founders, originally developed its technology for use in classrooms. The startup’s team of 12 research scientists joined Zoom last year to support the company’s product development efforts.

Photo: Zoom

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