Salesforce Skims the Pages

Salesforce is working on AI for people that don’t have time to read.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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Salesforce wants to make skimming much easier. 

The company is seeking to patent an AI-based “collaborative reading assistance tool.” Salesforce’s tool breaks down documents in a way that’s hyper-specific, allowing a user to choose exactly how much time they want to spend reading or what they want answered. 

The system comes with a time filter or a question filter. With the time filter, a user picks exactly how much time they want to spend reading the document, and the system highlights “summative portions of the document” that will take around that time to read. The reading rate is determined either from average user reading rate or based on the individual user. 

The question filter gives the user a list of questions that are generated by an AI model based on the document’s content, and the system highlights portions of the document answering the user’s chosen questions specifically. 

This system also offers what’s called “focus mode,” which presents one paragraph at a time by “blurring, dimming, or otherwise obscuring the other paragraphs.” This mode also comes with the “ability to highlight, take notes, and answer reflection questions” that are also generated by an AI model. 

Finally, the system tracks user activity such as notes, highlights or “dwell time,” or how long a user spends reading each paragraph, to determine which sections of the document are the most important to the reader, and generates a “human-AI summary” based on those metrics. 

Photo via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

This isn’t the first time Salesforce has taken an interest in making reading easier. In 2017 – before every headline, product development and startup pitch seemed to encompass AI – Salesforce researchers developed a machine learning algorithm which automatically summarized text by picking out keywords. 

The company also is working on a system called “CTRLsum,” which takes unique user preferences into consideration when using AI to generate summaries. The tech in this patent seemingly adds to this work, accounting for both explicit and implicit user preferences to create highly tailored summaries. 

Given that Salesforce owns enterprise communication staple Slack, which it acquired two years ago for more than $27 billion, it adds up that the company is beefing up its productivity tech. At the Salesforce World Tour event in May, the company announced SlackGPT, a suite of AI productivity tools that will soon be integrated into the messenger. 

When released to the public, the product will add summarization, workflow automation and integration of EinsteinGPT, the company’s enterprise-focused generative AI chatbot it announced in March amid the chatbot boom. Slack also is reportedly looking to hire back staff to work on generative AI tools less than six months after layoffs, Fortune reported in late June. 

All this said, the market for this kind of tech definitely isn’t slim. Plenty of startups are pushing out AI summarization tools that claim to be the most efficient or accurate on the market, and many people defer to widely used chatbots like ChatGPT to sum up their work. While Salesforce’s system is likely more customizable than others, and the company does have the advantage of a built-in customer base, it may still have some competition in this arena. 

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