Your “Digital Twin” Will Sit In On Zoom Calls

No human, no problem. Zoom’s founder wants your avatar to attend meetings for you.

Zoom has experienced a roller coaster ride for the last five years.

In December, 2020, at the height of the global pandemic lockdowns, the video conferencing giant hosted 350 million virtual meetings. By 2024, those meetings thinned out significantly as the lockdowns passed and remote work receded (although it certainly hasn’t faded away) as Zoom’s user base fell to two million customers and only about 300,000 paying customers. Tough competition from Microsoft Teams and Google Meet also took a big bite out of Zoom’s user engagements.

Now, Zoom faces a high-stakes fight to stay relevant and keep customers buying meeting access and logging in.

One way to do that is to develop eye-opening ideas that appeal to paying customers. Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan has answered that call with a plan to replace human Zoom visitors with their own AI-powered digital avatars.

Fixing the “Boring” Meet-Up Experience

Yuan floated the idea in a June interview with Nilay Patel on the Decoder Podcast. In the interview, Yuan had this to say to Patel about a future where digital doubles sit in on business calls in place of human workers, which simultaneously seems intriguing and threatening for employees in the age of digitalization.

With conferencing, Zoom is one app. If you look at your calendar, it is not only for joining your video meeting but also for many other things. You read emails, send a chat message, make a phone call, have a whiteboard session, schedule something with external third parties.

What we are doing now is really looking at your entire schedule and how to leverage Zoom Workplace to help you out. Essentially, you can leave Zoom Workplace, and Zoom Workplace can help you get most of your work done, right? That’s our pitch. We are not there yet.

For this session today, ideally, I do not need to join. I can send a digital version of myself to join so I can go to the beach. I do not need to check my emails; the digital version of myself can read most of the emails. Maybe one or two emails will tell me, “Eric, it’s hard for the digital version to reply. Can you do that?” Again, today, we all spend a lot of time either making phone calls, joining meetings, sending emails, deleting some spam emails, and replying to some text messages, but we are still very busy. How [do we] leverage AI, and how do we leverage Zoom Workplace to fully automate that kind of work? That’s something that is very important for us.

Yuan said that Zoom plans to lean on artificial intelligence to shift meetings from human to digital interaction – to a point.

AI probably can help for maybe 90 percent of the work, but in terms of real-time interaction, today, you and I are talking online. So, I can send my digital version — you can send your digital version. Again, it is not like an in-person meeting. If I stop by your office, let’s say I hug you, and you shake my hand, right? I think AI cannot replace that. We still need to have in-person interaction. That is very important. Say you and I are sitting together in a local Starbucks and having a very intimate conversation — AI cannot do that, either.

But if you look at just videoconferencing itself, I think we can leverage AI more and more. You do not need to spend so much time [in meetings]. You do not have to have five or six Zoom calls every day. You can leverage the AI to do that.

You and I can have more time to have more in-person interactions, but maybe not for work. Maybe for something else. Why do we need to work five days a week? Down the road, four days or three days. Why not spend more time with your family? Why not focus on some more creative things, giving you back your time, giving back to the community and society to help others, right? Today, the reason why we cannot do that is because every day is busy, five days a week. It’s boring.

There’s much more from Huan in the interview and is all well worth a listen.

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