Siri and Alexa may spend their days responding to requests for trivia and weather. Among these more general agents, though, it's a safe bet that Microsoft will steer its agent, Cortana, more toward a productivity focus at some point. And Will.i.am's tech venture i.am+ recently raised $117 million in support of its enterprise-focused voice agent Omega that is set to focus initially on customer service.
And beyond voice, a number of more specialized agents such as clara.ai and x.ai, have sought to navigate that staple of calendar drudgery known as scheduling meetings by negotiating schedules among multiple participants.
But once the meeting got underway, though, you were on on your own. Or at least you were before Eva.
Eva is an agent that you invite to conference calls like any other participant. It understands how to work within several popular conferencing options such as BlueJeans and UberConference. Upon joining, it will announce its presence. Eva then begins recording the call (Voicera strongly encourages users to inform all other callers that they are being recorded.), generating a real-time transcription synced to the audio that improves in the background as the call progresses.
But Eva is no passive lurker. At any time, a participant can ask Eva to highlight what has just transpired or what is about to transpire. In addition, a participant can directly address Eva to ask it to mark something as an action item. Each meeting has its own webpage that the organizer can monitor during the call to confirm and review these actions in real-time.
After the call, Eva will also generate an interactive word cloud of key terms used in the call; clicking on a word will instantly replay the part of the call where it was uttered. Eva's transcriptions are similarly linked, allowing you to verify or review the conference call's audio.
At the end of a call, Eva can e-mail the meeting's highlights to participants to review or integrate into Slack or Salesforce, the venture arm of which has invested in Voicera. The company says other integrations are in the works.
Voicera, the company behind Eva, refers to the agent's understanding of key themes in the call as Meeting X-Ray, borrowing Amazon's term for contextual metadata for movies, music and books; it is here where the service has the most work ahead, Voicera says that that Eva will get smarter over time as it better understands the dynamics of meetings you have.
In addition, it notes that there's already a fair amount of intelligence already happening under the hood. For example, Voicera's transcription facility actually taps several different engines scoring transcription accuracy and will farm out to a human only when it needs to.
While Eva is already taking steps to make meetings better proactively by, for example, encouraging organizers to set agendas, it could improve its response to real-world meeting logistics.
In a preview of its functionality in a meeting scheduled for half an hour, Eva announced it was dropping off the call at the scheduled end of the meeting even though the call ran longer. (Was it something I said?) While Voicera has expressed the importance of Eva remaining unobtrusive during the call, such an extension should happen transparently as calls are often extended specifically because there is important unfinished business. As Eva is constantly monitoring call activity, this doesn't seem like difficult functionality to add.
Like Slack, is a productivity-focused service that aims to expand via personal adoption. Even based on its early functionality, adding Eva is a no-brainer for anyone doing phone interviews today; its developers have plans to expand its capabilities horizontally.
Early on, however, the Voicera is targeting inside sales and customer account representatives garnering feedback from customers and prospects for such things as recently rolled out or proposed features and pricing. Aggregating portions of Eva transcriptions across a number of these calls should provide an effective "voice of the customer" to senior executives or product managers.
Eva enters public beta today. The company hasn't set pricing but it is allowing users to try Eva for free. It may not be able to tell you the weather, but it could go a long way toward removing the fog that often clouds the aftermath of a dense meeting.
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