Meet Cue, the personal assistant of the future that predicts your next move

The San Francisco-based predictive service wants to bring to your schedule what Mint brought to your finances: sanity.
Written by Beth Carter, Contributing Editor

Gross and Walker

Let's be honest: I’m a fanatical list-maker. Being able to visualize what I need to do in a day is essential if I want to be even remotely productive. It ensures that there's nothing I miss -- unless, of course, I forget to put it on the list.

Calendar reminders pop up on my phone and laptop, and pre-set alarms help me be where I need to be on time. It’s an intricate, but not integrated, system that still relies on me being with-it enough to pre-set those reminders and write out those lists. It’s not the worst, but it’s certainly not the best, either.

Daniel Gross and Robby Walker co-founded the service Cue to add a dose of intelligence to my ad-hoc setup. Their goal? An "intelligent snapshot of your day."

“We both realized that, in this modern age, it’s actually shockingly difficult to get access to information you might need at a given time,” Gross said.

It's a moment of clarity to which we can all relate. The scenario that inspired Cue occurred when Gross was driving to a birthday party and struggled to find the address of his destination on his mobile phone while en route. Poring through apps, e-mail and menus behind the wheel? A bad idea, no doubt about it. But why should it be that difficult in the first place?

Gross and Walker say they developed Cue to connect bits and pieces of information like names, addresses, directions and events. The duo employ two of today's biggest technology trends -- cloud computing and mobility -- to bring a big data-like approach to the small data that we use every day.

“What this means to us is that we can build a service we can carry around all day and that can tell you what the next thing is when you need to know it,” Gross said. “And with the cloud, for the first time you can connect completely unrelated bits of information together.”

The pair's plan was to develop a service that always knows what the next item on your schedule is. Their first effort was called Greplin, a service that would aggregate a person's information and suggest to them things for which to search. It was, in essence, a personal search engine.

It took a year to build the predictive system at the heart of Greplin's successor, Cue, which launched in July. Cue turns Greplin's personal index on its head by attempting to predict -- action, rather than reaction -- which information is relevant to a person at a given time. In Gross' case, it's pulling the address to that birthday party from his correspondence and making it easily accessible in the time ahead of the event. For the rest of us, it could be as simple as displaying information for an upcoming flight in line with the work meetings that precede it -- without requiring the manual entry of that information into a single calendar.

Gross and Walker want Cue to replace the calendar. As you tell the service more about yourself, and link more accounts to it, Cue will mine those databases to create a single event stream. An upcoming flight, an electronic invitation to an event, or a simple e-mail exchange setting up a meeting over coffee -- all can be automatically translated into entries in Cue.

“We try to be very careful that we’re building something that’s both relative to consumers but also exciting,” Gross said. “You don’t want to make an exact replica of something that exists, but it should still be relatable."

In the future, the Cue team intends to dial up the intelligence quotient of the service a bit. For example, its founders want to be able to prompt users to leave five minutes early for an appointment in anticipation of traffic congestion. They also want Cue to be able to dynamically handle meetings that run late or people that cancel on you at the last second.

"With a lot of successful products you use, the idea is much larger than the initial product launched," Gross said. "The goal with Google was to organize the world of information. That’s a grand idea, and it was only in 2007 or 2008 when they began to catalog books.”

Cue’s vision is also relatively grand  -- Gross and Walker are attempting to build what is essentially the personal assistant of the future. But the pair started out with a far more modest goal: surface the right information to end the frustration. “Otherwise you never end up launching,” Gross told SmartPlanet.

“The main barrier sometimes between products and adoption is, 'Will this make you feel cool?' -- like Instagram -- or 'Can we make this thing work for you?,' " Gross said. "We are very much in the latter category. We had this idea; we built the infrastructure to support it."

Photo, top: Gross and Walker. (Courtesy Cue)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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