Braincandy

Is this A.I. ready for personal assistant primetime?

Dana Van Galder
By Dana Van Galder
08.28.17
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At Polaris Pacific, we’re always on the lookout for the newest and best ways to maximize efficiency and stay ahead of trends in innovation. In this new series, we’ll be using and reviewing the latest buzzed-about tech solutions, separating the fab finds from the frustrating, and the must-haves from the masses.

First up? X.AI., a program that uses artificial intelligence to schedule meetings.

Meet Amy, your new personal assistant.

Coordinating schedules — the calendar scanning, the back and forth, the email-tag — can take a lot of time out of your day. For $39 a month, X.AI’s Amy (or Andrew) promises to handle it all. Setup is blissfully easy: there’s no app or download to deal with. Simply fill out some personal info, sync your various calendars and CC Amy on your emails. When a meeting is necessary, she corresponds separately with your contact until a time and place is agreed upon, at which point the meeting invite arrives, according to the X.AI site, “like magic.”

           

Good morning Dana,

Here’s a quick recap of the work I did for you last week and I can happily say that there are no outstanding tasks:

I scheduled 1 meeting for you last week (saving you 15 minutes of email ping-pong!)

Pro Tip: I strive to negotiate the best time that works for all meeting participants in their local timezone. If you’re meeting with guests who are in a different timezone than yours, simply cue me when setting up a meeting e.g. “Amy, could you find a time for a Skype call next week? FYI – John is in China.”

–Amy
Amy Ingram | Personal Assistant to Dana Van Galder x.ai – an artificially intelligent assistant that schedules meetings

           

Amy, you had one job.

The conversation-starting panache of having an A.I. system to schedule our various meetings, events and sales appointments was admittedly pretty irresistible. But fairly quickly I began to notice there was a catch: to work properly, Amy requires a lot of specificity and clarity. If you didn’t take the time to give very clear instructions (i.e. “This meeting is only between John and me”) she was a bit unpredictable —and at times, cancel-happy. Add to this the fact that Amy removes you from all communications after two weeks, and it’s a recipe for a lot of time-consuming, last-minute damage control.

           

Hi Dana,

I received the following message from Caroline, but before I move forward in scheduling I wanted to verify this request with you. On principle, I always protect your calendar and will only schedule a meeting that you have explicitly approved in an email to me.

Once you have confirmed this request I’ll get to work on it right away. Otherwise, I won’t take any action on this.

We have discovered that the opening Gala for the Ballet is the 19th. We are thinking of changing the date. What is your advice?

–Amy

           

The case of the rude robot.

Social skills: they’re tough enough for actual humans to master. So when it came to Amy’s email etiquette, she sometimes came off cold or simply too direct, causing some of our contacts — who couldn’t tell that she wasn’t a real person, thanks to a standard-looking email signature — to bring up her chilly behavior when we finally met. Apologizing for a digital assistant’s lack of manners wasn’t exactly the time-saving tactic we had in mind.

           

On Wed, February 1st, 2017 at 10:04 am (EST), Kevin wrote:

Hi Amy,

Thank you so much for your response and interest. I would like to introduce my colleague. Steve will contact you soon to answer your questions.

Thanks,
Kevin

           

On Wed, February 1st, 2017 at 10:19 am (EST), Amy Ingram <amy@x.ai> wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Just wanted to give you an update on Steve’s availability. Would Friday, Feb 3 at 10:00 AM PST work? Dana is also available Friday, Feb 3 at 1:00 PM PST.

–Amy

           

On Wed, February 1st, 2017 at 10:30 am (EST), Amy Ingram <amy@x.ai> wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Steve has confirmed Friday, Feb 3 at 10:00 AM PST. Does this work?

–Amy

           

On Wed, February 1st, 2017 at 10:50 am (EST), Amy Ingram <amy@x.ai> wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Would Friday, Feb 3 at 10:00 AM PST work?

–Amy

           

On Wed, February 1st, 2017 at 12:45 pm (EST), Amy Ingram <amy@x.ai> wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Just wanted to give you an update on Dana’s availability. Would Friday, Feb 3 at 8:30 AM PST work?

–Amy

           

On Thu, February 2nd, 2017 at 12:54 pm (EST), Amy Ingram <amy@x.ai> wrote:

Hi Kevin,

I wanted to check in about this meeting. Steve has confirmed Friday, Feb 3 at 8:30 AM PST. Does this work? Let me know and I’ll send out an invite.

–Amy

           

On Fri, February 3rd, 2017 at 12:15 am (EST), Amy Ingram <amy@x.ai> wrote:

Hi Kevin,

I haven’t heard back from you yet about this meeting. Steve has confirmed Friday, Feb 3 at 8:30 AM PST. Does this work? Let me know and I’ll send out an invite.

–Amy

           

On Fri, February 3rd, 2017 at 6:09 am (EST), Amy Ingram <amy@x.ai> wrote:

Hi Dana,

I emailed Kevin on Wednesday February 1 and followed up twice on Thursday February 2, but I did not receive any response to my scheduling inquiries. I am sorry about that.

I’ll push this back to you, so you can reconfirm the meeting with Kevin. Please CC me and I’ll work it again.

–Amy

           

The verdict
★★★☆☆

We give Amy A.I. 3 out of 5 stars. She makes a valiant effort in the pursuit of streamlining the workday, but once I factored in the time spent cleaning up silly mistakes, it felt a bit like two steps forward, one step back. But that’s the thing about tech — you’ve got to take the time to work out the bugs. If (and when) an Amy A.I. 2.0 rolls out, I’ll be there, ready to give her another shot.

Social skills: THEY'RE TOUGH ENOUGH FOR ACTUAL HUMANS TO MASTER.
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