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.
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.
Why You Should Invite Artificial Intelligence to All Your Meetings
Aurora is less about scheduling meetings than what is normally called project management, focusing on resource requirements, length of tasks and other factors.
WizCal is another AI meeting scheduler. To use it, you simply add the people you’d like to invite and say vaguely when you’d like the meeting to take place—something as basic as “early next week” will do. WizCal will find a slot that works for everyone and even finds a conference room. Once scheduled, WizCal puts it on everyone’s calendar.
WizCal supports Microsoft Outlook and other major platforms as well as SMS messaging.
The beta version of Kono enables you to schedule meetings via email. It works only if all meeting invitees are using Google calendar or Microsoft Office365.
Kono specializes in super ease of use. You can set up a meeting without even typing words. Just choose “lunch” or “meeting” and pick the attendees. Kono does the rest, according to the company.
One task everyone should take on before a meeting is to make sure they know who they’re meeting with. Charlie is an iPhone app that does research on people and sends you a “dossier” on the person in advance of your meeting. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can use the web version.
When you install it, you’ll be invited to approve notifications, as well as access to your calendar and Twitter and Facebook accounts.
When you schedule meetings with people who are in your address book, Charlie presents a description that includes who you’re meeting, what they’ve done professionally and what they’ve been talking about on social media.
The idea is to give you just-in-time information on the person you’re meeting with without spending any time or effort.
The feature I like best about Charlie is that it’s pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it app. After you install it and set it up, you never have to think about. Then just before every meeting, you get a super helpful dossier on the person you’re meeting with.
Why AI Meeting Management is the Future of Computing
The AI marketplace is exploding right now, and with it, speculation about what the next generation of AI will usher in.
Some are predicting doom and gloom, saying that the machines will take over, steal all the jobs and turn people into pets.
Others say future AI applications will work only in the background and people will continue more or less as they do now, but with smarter software to assist them.
The best-case scenario a people-centric partnership between people and machines, with a clear division of labor. Ideally, AI will do menial tasks while people do the creative work.
That’s why I love these AI meeting applications. They handle the grunt work around meetings, leaving humans to create, brainstorm, learn and communicate as ideally they are supposed to do at meetings. At all times, people are in control and kept informed.
With more advanced technology, I would expect these kinds of tasks to be enhanced with proactive agency. For example, our meeting AI services of the future might suggest key people in our industry to meet with or automatically build slides for our presentations.
Beyond merely taking notes, AI might provide intelligent follow-ups for us, add facts and data from the Internet and even suggest bringing in additional participants on the fly.
That’s the future. In the meantime, AI meeting helpers are available right now and emerging in new forms all the time.
Soon, every meeting may be organized, prepared and documented by intelligent machines, leaving us humans to the task of understanding, building strategies, communicating and learning how to streamline and do everything better.