New York City-based x.ai today released the professional version of its artificial intelligence powered personal assistants, which are designed to schedule meetings for you.
Founded in 2014, it's the company's first effort to monetize its service. Up until this point, users of the product were beta testers.
X.ai does offer a free personal edition on its site, but there’s a waitlist. Stefanie Syman, VP of communications and customer experience for x.ai, said that edition will be available in 2017. It will offer up to five meetings per month.
The professional edition offers unlimited meetings, a personalized signature and more. It costs as low as $39 a month.
X.ai co-founder and CEO Dennis R. Mortensen also plans to release a business version offering both unlimited meetings and a team administration interface for around $59 monthly.
Virtual Assistants Amy & Andrew
X.ai's two personal assistants — Amy Ingram and her brother, Andrew — check calendars, exchange email and schedule meetings. They are primarily automated. But Mortensen has said that some of the queries that stump the two virtual assistants are sent to humans or AI Trainers for review.
Early users like Software Engineer Aaron Critchley described Amy on Quora as a significant time saver that cut more than four hours from his scheduling time in the first month he was using her. She also "sounds beautifully human," he noted.
Other users have expressed similar sentiments on Twitter:
Someone rang our office switchboard asking for my 'assistant' Amy - switchboard entirely confused. Can't live without her now @xdotai !— Jonathan (@Jldb) September 22, 2016
Syman told CMSWire the company has actually received love notes from users relating how much time the technology saves them.
Putting AI to Work
X.ai was co-founded by Mortensen; COO Alex Poon; CTO Matt Casey; and Chief Data Scientist Marcos Jimenez. The company launched its initial beta version of its AI personal assistant in June 2014.
How's it work?
Users simply copy Amy or Andrew on an email and the selected virtual assistant takes over scheduling from there.
The x.ai team leveraged a "huge data set" to help build their core infrastructure, Mortensen said in a statement:
- “Teaching a machine to understand natural language, even using the most advanced data science, is by any definition super hard. Add to that the fact that meeting scheduling is a high-accuracy setting. So it was important for us to wait to roll out a paid product until we felt Amy was smart enough to schedule meetings nearly flawlessly.”
"The paid product is a big step for us," Syman said. The virtual assistants support Google, Outlook and Microsoft Office 365 calendars. It does not yet support Exchange but that's in the roadmap, Syman said.
The company has worked hard to train Amy and Andrew to be ready for the "ambiguity of human communication," Syman said. "Someone may fire off an email at 1 a.m. asking to push out a meeting tomorrow to 11 a.m. They really mean today."
"People think they're saying one thing and they're really saying another."
The company has also moved to humanize Amy and Andrew as best they can for "seamless, natural interactions."
AI Picks Up Steam
Larger enterprises are deploying AI, too. Salesforce recently unveiled its plans for Salesforce Einstein, which will uses AI to empower salespeople. And at its annual user conference in July, OpenText released its future cognitive analytics technology, Magellan.