Real Time Communications Featured Article

Meet Ito, the WebRTC Bot for Slack

January 20, 2015

Digital assistants have gotten rather popular—and what started with Siri for iPhone has morphed into pop-culture iterations like Dom, the Domino’s Pizza ordering bot. Another bot is now dovetailing with the popular chat application Slack, to add real-time communication (RTC) voice and video features to its text-based communications platform.

Developed by Tropo, the Ito communications assistant adds person-to-person calling, multi-party conferencing, call recording, voice to text transcription and voice analytics to text messaging platforms, starting with Slack.

"If you have a Slack chat open with ten colleagues and decide you need to bring five of them into a conference call, there was no easy way to do that in Slack. Now with Ito, you just type a simple command, Ito dials the appropriate phones and creates your conference on the fly," said Michael Søndergaard, Councilor of Coding at Forged Alliance Forever.

Slack, which was started by Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield in 2013, is a chat app for businesses that replaces intra-office email and plugs into other services like Twitter, GitHub, and Dropbox. Companies like eBay, Sony, Yelp and NBCUniversal all use it to get things done among teams. The addition of video and voice can only further expand user engagement with the app.

Ito is available via an invitation-based beta for now. While Slack is the initial target, Tropo plans to integrate Ito with additional platforms such as IRC and HipChat later this year.

Interestingly, Ito supports voice analytics, with speech-to-text conversion of any calls or conferences, and can also analyze a conference to give a visual history of when each person was talking, what emotions were like during a call, and other psychographics. This is what’s known as "Hypervoice,” based on rich, contextual search and replay capabilities for voice.

"Modern voice conversations are, by default, initiated and received on powerful computing devices,” said Jason Goecke, CEO and president of Tropo and founding contributor to the Hypervoice Consortium, which is also backed by industry players including Ericsson and Telefonica. “However, these communications remain shackled to the legacy patterns and constraints of telephony; Ito's support for Hypervoice changes that.”

Ito leverages WebRTC, which is built into Chrome and Firefox, to embed the functionality within the browser environment. When used outside of Chrome or Firefox, it uses Flash to communicate.

Tropo launched as Voxeo Labs, a division of Voxeo Corporation, in 2009, and was spun out from Voxeo into a separate company in 2013. Since then, it has focused on using WebRTC to give developers a set of APIs for next-gen communications. It built Ito on the Tropo RTC platform in under two weeks, it said.

"Ito is yet another example of the power and flexibility of Tropo. When just a couple of developers working in their off time can pull off a powerful integration like this, you know you've built a company around a solid API," said Jonathan Taylor, chairman of Tropo and Entrenext Ventures.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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