My first interaction with Amy was a lot like a first date. I was overly flattering, a little nervous, and unsure what to expect next. Did an artificial intelligence agent really just schedule my interview? Even more so, did I just thank her for her help?
A few months ago my friend Brittany introduced me to x.ai, an artificial intelligence startup with a single goal: scheduling your meetings. All I could think about as she spoke was, this isn’t SpyKids. Does something like this really exist?
My curiosity drove me to reach out to the company’s founder, Dennis Mortensen, who kindly agreed to join me on the show.
Here’s exactly what he said.
Shortly after my response, I received this email from Amy Ingram.
Regardless of my familiarity with Amy we engaged in a normal conversation. I let her know that the time worked and naturally thanked her for her help coordinating our Skype interview.
Within 15 minutes, (not instantly, this is part of the team’s goal to make Amy mirror traditional human interactions) I received a calendar invite for the event, and it hit me. The woman I just thanked is not a human. She’s an artificial intelligence agent who has no emotions. Still, here I am referring to her as a “she” and choosing “who” and not “that” to describe her. Cue the first date uncertainty.
Once I responded to the invite, I sent Dennis a quick email thanking him and letting him know I was looking forward to our conversation. Could he please forward his Skype? To my shock (I literally stopped and told everyone I was watching the NFC Championship game with) Amy had already input his Skype ID in the calendar invitation. I genuinely couldn’t believe it.
She remembers things. She’s smarter than we are.
While the marvel, of using Amy, makes you feel like a real life Spy Kid the challenges attached to the technology are immense.
For one, the system has glitches meaning that an experience that’s intended to be entirely automated currently relies heavily on human interaction.
Take, for example, the context of a meeting that Dennis completely opened my eyes too. Think about a meeting for a minute. Then five. Now for an hour, and then for a day. You’ll be surprised by how many intricacies come up in the process.
For starters, who has the upper hand in the relationship? Do you have another meeting before this one? Where is it located and do you enjoy meeting in this part of town?
The possibilities are endless making x.ai’s closed beta hugely beneficial. You can see how active they are communicating with users on Twitter.
For those who follow the 33voices blog, you know how fascinated I am with uncertainty. This year, I’ve decided to fight Mike Tyson style and am relying on our founders to help me do it.
With the nature of his work, it was no surprise that Dennis’ take on it is one of the freshest I’ve ever received.
Dennis is completely cognizant of the challenge ahead for his 40 person team and is blazingly confident that there’s no “ta-da” moment.
For all I know, we might just die trying. This isn’t a weekend Hackathon or a three month Y Combinator project. This is a year-long endeavor where you need to have a certain level of patience and accept the fact that we aren’t going to solve it tomorrow.
Taking that I’m a master at these quarter life crises, I was certain to preface Dennis’ uncertainty question within the context that he’s started and sold three companies. However, in traditional x.ai style, his response can be adopted by all of us.
For Dennis, all he wants is a good set of stories. “I want to be able to say, that was really fun. We won some. We lost some. But it was fun.”
You’ve been given an opportunity. Play it out with all you have.
Right now, Amy’s still a teenager who requires significant parental supervision, and as the team dedicates the coming months to getting her ready for life on her own, they have a single goal in mind: To simply schedule your meetings.