By JARED LINDZON Fast Company
Those worried that the rise of artificial intelligence means that robots will take their job might feel comforted by the fact that many AI tools are actually being designed not to replace humans, but to help them do their jobs better.
Though the field is still in its infancy, many young startups came to Europe’s largest tech conference, Web Summit, last week to showcase how their AI tools are working to make people more efficient and productive, in both their personal and professional lives. Here are a few that stood out.
(HONESTLY) TRACKING YOUR TIME
Does it feel like you’ve never got enough time for the things you really want to do in life? Paris-based AI startup Smarter Time is helping its 80,000 users find the time that always seems to be missing by tracking their habits and providing feedback.
[Photo: courtesy of SmarterTime]
The concept is that even if one were to try and track every moment of their day in order to manually analyze and optimize their time, few would bother putting in the really small things, but that’s where much of our time gets lost.“You will think it’s so small, I don’t need to input it, but that’s one way of cheating with your own schedule, because these small bits of time add up,” said Smarter Time’s cofounder and CMO, Anna Winterstein. “If you spend five minutes on Facebook 10 times a day that’s 50 minutes, that’s a huge amount of time, and you get distracted, and studies say you need at least 15 minutes to get focused again.”
Using a plugin that tracks desktop browsing, along with an app that tracks phone usage patterns, Smarter Time seeks to “give its users back time for what really matters,” said Winterstein, adding that the company is building features that will eventually encourage healthy lifestyle habits as well.
“By using the latest scientific research we’re trying to give people advice, like maybe you haven’t been sleeping enough or should be doing more fitness,” she said.
The app is currently available as a free download on Android devices, with additional features available for purchase, and an iOS version coming soon.
CRAFTING THE PERFECT COLD EMAIL
Founded in 2016 and officially launched last week at Web Summit, French startup AiZimov seeks to take the guesswork out of cold emails and solicitations, gathering data and information in order to autonomously craft emails that are more likely to receive a positive response.
[Photo: courtesy of Aizimov]
“All you have to put in are four things; first name, last name, email, and company,” said AiZimov’s CEO, Jérôme Devosse. With that information Devosse says the tool crawls the internet for every mention of the person and their organization, and crafts a message tailored to them. That could include references to their latest position paper, their company’s latest press release, their personal Twitter feed, or the hobbies listed on their LinkedIn profile.“If the guy, for example, has done a marathon, I may finish the email by saying ‘by the way, I also did a marathon in Rome, here is my time, how do we compare?’ to get their attention,” said Devosse.
Over time the tool collects information on the sorts of emails that get the best responses among specific target audiences and adjusts various factors–such as tone, length, content, and the time it’s sent–accordingly. While the program optimizes a first draft, the sender still has the opportunity to tweak the email according to their preferences and style, which AiZimov gradually learns to replicate.
“The tool will learn how people in that industry and that country react to different propositions; do they like humor? Do they like a formal tone? Do they like if we talk about their expertise?” explains Devosse.
Though a limited number of users can still get a free trial, Devosse says that it will eventually come with a price tag. As a result the company is targeting B2B companies to be used by their sales departments.
MANAGING AND IMPROVING YOUR WEBSITE
Those who manage their own website typically have three options for improving and optimizing its effectiveness: relying on free tools that require an understanding of website analytics, hiring a firm to help with website optimization, or doing nothing. With little time or resources to dedicate, many freelancers and startups must opt for the latter.
Based at the Technical University of Copenhagen, Canecto hopes to spread website optimization to the masses, providing everyone with the ability to affordably improve the performance of their online presence. “We remove the analytical process and just tell them exactly what to do to improve their website,” said Canecto’s CEO, Per Damgaard Husted, explaining that it doesn’t require significant resources or technological proficiency.
[Photo: courtesy of Canecto]
The tool, which officially launched to the public at Web Summit, seeks to help its users increase their visitors’ time onsite, and will eventually be able to optimize for other metrics as well. “What we’re working on is to enable you to put in your business goals, and get recommendations,” he said. “So in a couple of months you can put in say conversion goals, signups to the newsletter, downloading a PDF file, whatever generates value for you.”By downloading the Canecto script for their content management platform, users are not only able to get detailed information about how visitors interact with their website, but recommendations on how to improve. Such recommendations can range from color scheme to the prominence of photos to the length, tone, and content of text to the optimal number of links, videos, and images.
The tool even tracks social media to help provide additional recommendations based on real-time trends and interests amongst the target audience.
“It will tell you what are the interests of the people who have downloaded that PDF file or signed up for the newsletter, and you can see the reverse, the people who didn’t, and see the difference,” said Damgaard Husted.
Damgaard Husted adds that Canecto’s basic features, which are targeted toward individual freelancers and small business owners, are now available for free, while its more advanced tools, which can help optimize media spending, are available for a cost.
YOUR OWN EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
The decline in executive assistant roles following the Great Recession has always confused Roy Pereira. Though originally considered a cost-saving measure, the extra time now spent by executives on organizing schedules, preparing meeting notes, and planning travel logistics often proves more expensive. “I wanted to have my own EA, so I decided to build it,” said the Toronto-based entrepreneur.
The resulting product, Zoom.AI, can learn your habits and preferences, make recommendations, schedule meetings automatically and order a car to take you there.
[Photo: courtesy of ZoomAI]
“One of our most important tasks is to get you prepared for the meeting,” said Pereira. “So when you’re in the Uber you’ll pull up two pages of information on the person you’re meeting with, based on public information.”That information can include work history, common connections and friends on social media, recent media appearances, research papers, blog posts, common interests, and an analysis of personality traits.
“There’s also informational discovery inside the office,” said Pereira, who explains that the application can pull information from public documents, internal customer relations management systems, digital files, and other support systems. “With a couple of requests you can just ask, ‘where is the N.D.A. for Coca-Cola that we did last month?’ and it will find it,” he adds.
Asking Zoom.AI for the location of a file or to schedule a meeting is as simple as sending a message via text, Slack, Facebook, Skype, or any of the 16 compatible chat platforms. “It’s like talking to a person in a direct message,” said Pereira.
For example, if Pereira sends a message to his Zoom.AI assistant asking to schedule a coffee with a friend, the program will find time in both schedules near the time of day and for the duration that he typically takes a coffee break, at the coffee shop he frequents that is most geographically convenient for both participants, and send a meeting request.
According to Pereira this technology gives users an average productivity boost of 14%, or 25 hours a week.