On Thursday, OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, launched a mobile app on iOS that integrates Whisper, an open-source speech-recognition system, enabling voice input. Workers can use ChatGPT for tasks such as idea generation, note summarization and technical topic assistance. In the last couple of months, Microsoft also announced new AI features for its apps in Microsoft Office, including its email provider Outlook, word processor Word and presentation maker PowerPoint. Similarly, Google released its vision and very first features for its workplace suite of tools called Google Workspace. And they’re not alone. Other workplace software providers that have recently announced AI integrations include Salesforce and Salesforce-owned Slack, Zoom, Box, Adobe and HubSpot, to name a few.
Generative AI is supposed to help workers do things like draft emails with a simple prompt, summarize meetings (even ones you don’t attend) and include action items, create entire presentations complete with speaker notes and AI-generated images, sift through long email threads or texts and pull out key points, and highlight important patterns in sets of data.
Google also recently demoed its video communication tool called Project Starline. The tool uses AI to create a 3D image of a person during a video call using a few cameras and a screen. The idea is to create a feeling of someone else’s lifelike presence and allow for things like nonverbal cues and eye contact. When someone reaches out to you, the image appears as though the person’s arm is coming through the screen.
“It feels like you’re at the table … like you were together,” said Andrew Nartker, general manager of the project.
The prototype of Starline is being tested by Salesforce, T-Mobile and WeWork, which are helping provide feedback for further development of features like whiteboarding. A firsthand test of the tech did provide a sense of presence different from an average video call. Still, it’s not perfect. At times, the pixels of the image flickered similar to the way you might see a virtual background accidentally malfunction on a traditional video call. It’s also too early to know whether the experience could make people sick the way virtual reality does for some users. Google believes it would be much more similar to watching a 3D TV than using virtual reality because no headsets are involved.
All of these features and products seem to make the same promise: Your job will be made easier and better with the help of AI. But what does this really mean for everyday workers?
Leaders at Microsoft say it boils down to this: You’re going to need to learn new skills for the AI era.
“In order to stay relevant, you have to make sure your skills are valuable,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of modern work and business applications. “Everyone is going to need to learn how to use AI and to apply it to their role.”
And Spataro says this extends to roles beyond just the office. AI is eventually going to change how everyone works, he says. In terms of time spent learning the new tech, Spataro compares it to the process of learning how to ride a bike: You may fall a lot, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll go farther faster.
Kate Bezrukova, chair and associate professor of organization and human resources at the University at Buffalo School of Management, says it’s important that companies think fully about employees’ comfort level with AI tools before implementing them.
For workers, she believes it’s important to approach new tools with a sense of curiosity and intention to learn. Consider the time spent learning new tools as an investment in your future, she says.
“You don’t want to be left behind,” she said about learning new AI tools. “This is a skill that’s probably going to be valuable in the future.”
That said, some tools may be worth your time only for specific uses. In other cases, the shiny thing may be nothing more than a distraction. Bezrukova says either be willing to test which tools make the most sense for you or give the market some time to play itself out.
“Those that are helpful will survive, and those that aren’t won’t,” she said. “It’ll become clear soon.”
In the meantime, those of us at the Help Desk will take some face-first falls to spare you some struggles. Feel free to drop us a line to commiserate or share your experiences using AI tools by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight some important pieces you might have missed (but definitely should read) from my Help Desk colleagues. Please enjoy!
- Tatum Hunter informed us about a settlement that fertility app Premom made with the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly sharing sensitive user information with third parties without consent.
- Chris Velazco explored a new feature Apple is releasing later this year that will allow iPhone users to teach their phones to speak in their voice.
- Heather Kelly told us about a new feature in the Uber app that will allow teens in some cities to hail a car while providing parents with tracking.
- Heather also helps us navigate the latest settings we should change to keep our Facebook accounts from getting hacked.