Slack adds AI to help users cope with chat overload

Summarizes threads you just can't keep up with and beefs up search

After nearly a year of testing, Salesforce-owned Slack has launched some generative AI features that may help enterprise users search, summarize, and ask questions about information in their conversations.

For those overwhelmed by all the chatter on their Slack workspace, the IRC-ish app has added an ML-powered search bot that users can feed natural language queries into, and it'll attempt to answer them. The idea being to help people pull up info that would be otherwise buried or hard to find with the non-AI search tool.

It seems you can ask the search bot for things like more information about a particular project, who is working on a specific task, what decisions or policies have been made, and who is an inside expert of specific subjects. If you're too embarrassed to ask your coworkers what a strange acronym they keep using means, you can ask Slack's AI to attempt to define it.

This search system appears to drill into the workspace's conversations and discussions to answer these open-ended queries, and presumably it respects privacy by not sharing people's private conversations with others. Slack says it doesn't use customer data to train large language models, and hosts all its machine-learning tech by itself on its infrastructure.

The two other AI features are machine-generated recaps of channel conversations and summaries of threads. Slack suggested the summaries are useful for when staff return from time away from work, or join a team.

And if you don't want to use Slack's AI, or you don't want to use it in isolation, the software is still open to third-party apps, such as note-taking tool Notion, PagerDuty, and the newfangled AI search bot Perplexity, all of which can bring in their own machine-learning functionality where available.

Speaking of availability, we're told that "Slack AI is available today as a paid add-on for Enterprise plans and available in English. Additional plans and language support will be coming soon."

Slack CEO Denise Dresser reckons the AI-powered features will boost workers' productivity.

"For the past decade, Slack has revolutionized the way we work, bringing people, apps and systems together in one place. With Slack AI, we're excited to take this transformation to the next level. These new AI capabilities empower our customers to access the collective knowledge within Slack so they can work smarter, move faster, and spend their time on things that spark real innovation and growth," she said in a canned statement.

Slack is planning to juice its chat app with more AI features in the future, such as integrating Salesforce's Einstein Copilot assistant. ®

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