The robotic personal helper that just got $23M

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 6:30 PM

Investors just poured $23 million into perfecting Amy.

The robotic personal helper that just got $23M

Investors just poured $23 million into perfecting Amy.

That may sound a small less weird once you know that Amy is an artificially intelligent personal helper and the brainchild of a startup called X. ai.

Clients can "cc" Amy -- or her counterpart Andrew -- on emails requesting a meeting. Then she takes over the task of coordinating schedules and setting the date.

On Thursday, X. ai announced a fresh circular of funding led by Two Sigma Ventures, a VC fund that invests in data-focused startups.

That funding will assistance X. ai -- which has been operating in private beta since two thousand fourteen -- roll out out its service to the public this summer and release an undertaking edition before the finish of the year.

But are we prepared for robots to get over our calendars? People have grown so accustomed to dealing with human assistants that many have trouble conceptualizing Amy, or other similar services love Clara Labs.

While many sing the praises of bots for scheduling meetings, some perceive resentful that a robot has been assigned to their correspondence. And people are certainly less forgiving of a robot who schedules a meeting at the incorrect location.

Related: Even virtual assistants are sexually harassed

One of the many entrepreneurs I spoke to said he drew the line at using Amy to schedule meetings with potential investors.

"I just think it'south disrespectful," he said. "Like, 'I can't be bothered to schedule time with you. Let me pawn you off to my robot so I can obtain back to better things.'"

And many have number idea that they're communicating with a robot.

Dennis Mortensen, cofounder of X. ai, previously told CNNMoney that many people have the same reaction when they look Amy cc'ed. "How the hell did they afford an assistant?"

One venture capitalist said some investors were concerned when a founder, with a very early stage company, had an helper schedule a meeting. The founder had to clarify that the helper was a robot -- which cleared the air.

Some declare it'south embarrassing when they finally discover that they've been crafting courteous emails to a bot. All that was really needed was the essentials: date, time, location. The "please" and "thank you's" were totally unnecessary.

"People can grow accustomed to it, as long as you know upfront that'south who you're talking to," said George Nitzburg, a Columbia Univ adjunct Prof who studies the intersection of psychology and technology.

Related: Microsoft'south racist teen bot briefly comes back to life, tweets about kush

But Amy'south signature does comprise a clear identifier: "Artificial intelligence for scheduling meetings."

"We didn't expect so many people to declare 'wow' because it's identified. We never intended to cover that fact in any way," said Stefanie Syman, head of communications at X. ai.

But Nitzburg said it'south particularly necessary for businesses love X. ai to be sensitive to the fact that interacting with robots isn't the norm -- yet.

Companies necessity to be mindful, psychologically speaking, of how they're designing their products to interact with people.

"We're talking about human behavior and human emotion," he added. "Everything comes down to execution and decisions."

For its part, X. ai has an AI interaction designer, Anna Kelsey, who's tasked with coming up with every possible e-mail response for different meeting scenarios for Amy and Andrew.

Amy and Andrew are still in a supervised learning environment (meaning humans double check that data is accurately labeled), but Syman said they reply without supervision.

"Amy and Andrew'south responses are dynamically composed on the fly."

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