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HipChat Brings Amazon Alexa to Team Collaboration Party

Atlassian continues to push the boundaries of enterprise team collaboration, today announcing the integration of Amazon Alexa voice interface technology with its HipChat software, as well as improvements to the tool's video chat capabilities.

Talk to Me
The voice integration comes from digital services company SoftServe, which used the HipChat Connect developer framework to create a chat bot called VoiceMyBot. "The point of this piece of software is to tie the Amazon Echo hardware into the HipChat experience on your desktop or Web browser," explained Steve Goldsmith, HipChat GM.

This all means that when integrated into a HipChat room, Alexa will be able to hear and respond to voice commands -- canned or customized -- as well as initiate conversations and issue voice alerts. This removes the barrier of having to be looking at a screen to take advantage of HipChat capabilities, said Goldsmith, noting that all sorts of business teams should be able to get use out of voice integration into chat. A sales exec might ask Alexa to pull up the top five opportunities in the pipeline as he gathers his team for a morning meeting, or a product manager might start a meeting asking Alexa to provide the Net Promoter Score and most recent feedback -- and neither would need to be sitting at his laptop but instead could be standing at a whiteboard or elsewhere in a meeting space outfitted with Amazon Echo, he described.

"And this is all without having to parse through data themselves or remember how to ask the chat bot how to do it," Goldsmith said.

This isn't about Atlassian trying to solve voice integration for the whole spectrum of Alexa service providers. Rather, it provides a way for developers to expose their services through voice on HipChat, he noted.

"We are in the early days for voice integration, with Amazon pushing its hardware solution right now, and we're excited about this particular integration of voice with chat. But, in general, we're looking forward to seeing what voice can do with chat and overall where this will head," he added. "Talk is just so much faster and easier."

Let's Video Chat
As Atlassian adds voice integration into HipChat rooms, it's also beefing up its video chat capabilities. Following on its summer announcement around one-click group chats, Atlassian today announced that it has doubled the number of team members who can participate in a video chat and screen sharing session to 20, and that it now supports the ability to pin one speaker on the "stage." Both enhancements are aimed at supporting more of a broadcast meeting model rather than small group discussion mode, Goldsmith said.

Additionally, Atlassian is boosting the management capability within group video chats. From a left-hand navigation bar, participants can see who's on the call and add others with a single click -- and organize their own video chat layouts (with the pinning capability fitting in here, too). Muting is now enabled via a tap on the keyboard space par, and HipChat video now also supports a one-click "raise your hand" function that signals to the team a participant's interest in adding something to the conversation at an opportune time. Among these and other enhancements, HipChat teams can also now password-protect their video chats.

The new video chat capabilities are now available for HipChat Plus and HipChat Server users.

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