Amazon.com Inc.’s Echo, the smart speaker with a Star Trek-style intelligent voice assistant called Alexa, is still something of a novelty for consumers to ask about the weather forecast or order products. Now it’s finding its way into the office.
HipChat, the team chat application owned by Atlassian Corp. PLC, today announced a connection between its service and Amazon Alexa. Atlassian says the integration is the first with Alexa to enable the voice assistant to initiate conversations proactively rather than simply respond to queries.
“We’re bringing consumer technology to the workplace,” Steve Goldsmith, general manager of HipChat, said in an interview. “We’re excited to open this voice channel to help teams collaborate better.”
The announcement, along with another today on improvements to video chat within HipChat, is intended to position HipChat and Atlassian generally as a more complete alternative for team collaboration than individual services offered by Slack Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The software giant, in fact, is expected to introduce a Slack-like chat service called Microsoft Teams, known inside the company as Skype Teams, at an Office event Nov. 2 in New York.
Atlassian President Jay Simons made the case in an interview earlier this month at the company’s customer conference in San Jose, Calif., that many rival services such as Skype and Google Hangouts are “stuck in the past.” He said they focus either on one-to-one communications or using technologies originally developed for that use case, or on selling to chief information officers, leaving a hole in solutions specifically for teams. He acknowledged that Slack, for one, is aimed squarely at teams but said its feature set doesn’t match Atlassian’s.
In particular, said HipChat principal product manager Jonathan Nolen, the Atlassian Marketplace of add-on apps for HipChat and other Atlassian services, makes HipChat a “force multiplier for everything else you use” for team collaboration.
HipChat’s Alexa integration actually comes from SoftServe Inc.’s VoiceMyBot, a free add-on “skill” for Alexa that connects to a designated HipChat room using HipChat Connect and Amazon Alexa application programming interfaces. Ukraine-based software developer SoftServe posted a preview of how VoiceMyBot works back in July, though it’s only now being made available:
It can be taught commands for simple tasks (above), such as alerting engineers that their website is slow or crashing on certain browsers and allowing them by voice command to deploy an earlier version of their software to fix the issue. A salesperson using HipChat with her team could ask what are the last five leads their software collected, or a marketer could get an alert if social sentiment on his brand is dropping on Twitter.
HipChat also is announcing today a raft of enhancements for its video chat capability in HipChat rooms. For one, users can replace outside videoconferencing systems with HipChat’s own video chat, which can now work with up to 20 teammates, double the previous limit. The service also added some tweaks such as a “Raise your hand” button and a quick way to mute and unmute oneself.
Image courtesy of Atlassian