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When it comes to useful robots, we're still a few years away from getting a real-life version of Rosie, the robot maid from 'The Jetsons.' (A Roomba will have to do.) And indeed, we may never get the metal heaps promised by 60's era futurism.
But, with advancements in artificial intelligence and natural language processing, virtual assistants are proliferating. Siri can pull up directions, Cortana can play your favorite music, and now X.ai, a new virtual assistant start-up, is promising AI help that's actually useful in the office: Amy, a bot that can handle your scheduling.
If you do your own scheduling, you know that tossing dates and times back and forth can be a minor hassle. Enter "Amy," X.ai's virtual assistant. "You interact with [Amy] as you would any other person," X.ai explains, "and I'll do all the tedious email ping pong that comes along with scheduling a meeting." All you have to do is cc firstname.lastname@example.org and she'll take over. (Or you can mix it up and try Amy's colleague, email@example.com.) There are no sign ups, no passwords, and no software to download, according to X.ai.
Before you rush to start using Amy, we've got some caveats. First, there actually is a sign up. Amy is in a closed beta right now, so don't just start cc'ing X.ai every time you have a meeting. (Tech Crunch reports that the wait list is "very long.")
Second, virtual assistants like Amy could cause confidentiality concerns when used by lawyers. You are, after all, sharing your email and calendar with X.ai. That means that your data -- calendar information, the "disaggregated text of an email," and information on location, time, and parties to an email -- will be stored and processed by the company, according to X.ai's terms of service, and may be transferred to third parties. Your personal information is available not just to X.ai employees, but contractors and agents. If you test Amy out, reasonable measures should be taken to protect your sensitive information.
And yes, Amy is a one-trick pony. But the technology seems promising. If Amy and Andrew can handle your meetings, one day they may be able to take over organizing your email, scheduling your daily tasks, or even taking Astro out for a spacewalk.
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