NEWS ANALYSIS: New artificial intelligence technologies are able to handle all the drudgery associated with business meetings so the poor humans don't have to.
Only humans can have meetings, sadly.
But some of the clerical work associated with organizing and documenting meetings now might be outsourced to artificially intelligent machines.
Wait, you might say. Isn't artificial intelligence for big tasks such as self-driving cars, automated trading and facial recognition?
Once the stuff of science fiction, AI is quickly becoming widespread, available and even commoditized.
While AI eventually will play a much larger role in just about everything we all do, the first AI application you touch almost certainly will perform tedious, relatively minor tasks. In business, that means helping you with your meetings.
I'll tell you at the end of this column why business meeting AI is a great model for the future of the partnership between humans and computers. But first, let's check out the new generation of meeting helpers that use AI.
A service called Clarke.ai actually dials into your conference call and takes notes on the meeting. The notes are prioritized for possible action items.
And it's easy to set up. To make it happen, you simply sign up for the service, then copy the email address associated with "Clarke.ai" virtual assistant, called Claire (or optionally Cleary), on the meeting invitation.
When the meeting time comes around, Claire will dial in using the phone number and PIN in the email. After the meeting, the software will send the meeting notes via email, Slack, Salesforce, Trello or other online service.
One downside: If your conference call software requires meeting participants to say their name, Claire will choke and won't be allowed into the call.
But still, if the conditions are right, Clark.ai can handle the drudgery of taking meeting notes so you don't have to.
Microsoft last month bought an AI scheduling tool called Genee. The Genee product and brand will be put out to pasture. But the meeting scheduling technology will be built into Microsoft's Office 365 productivity suite and possibly the company's Cortana virtual assistant.
Genee, as we know it from the public beta, was integrated with various email systems and calendar apps to schedule meetings. By simply copying the Genee email address on a meeting request, you activate the service.
The app's natural language processing capability understands the message and uses decision-making algorithms to check everyone's calendars for shared availability, going back and forth with participants the same way a human does to find and communicate the best available meeting times.
Amy and Andrew from X.ai
If Genee sounds familiar, you may have heard about Amy. A New York-based startup called x.ai offers an email-based AI service that also schedules meetings.
The virtual assistant you interact with can be called Amy or Andrew, depending on the user's choice. As with Genee, x.ai uses natural language processing and decision-making algorithms to arrange meetings.
Once the meetings are set, they can be changed on the fly. Just send a note to Amy to "clear my calendar for the rest of the week" and Amy will reach out to everyone you had scheduled meetings with to reschedule for later.
I've tried x.ai personally, and it works amazingly well—so well, in fact, that meeting participants need never know that Amy isn't real.
Skejul is a beta AI organizing tool not just for business meetings, but also for your personal schedules.
The company boasts of a patent-pending Context Aware Predictive Computing platform that underlies the system. Instead of emailing back and forth with meeting participants, Skejul uses algorithms to find the best time for everyone your invitation list to meet.
Aurora software, from Silicon Valley-based Stottler Henke, uses AI for "intelligent planning and scheduling." Originally developed for NASA, the software is now used by Boeing and other major enterprises.