Type "Hello" To Amy, Your Plucky Digital Personal Assistant

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Can a robot be human enough to be your personal assistant?

Imagine a world where everyone could have a personal assistant to schedule meetings for them. Checking in with your team? Ask for it by next Friday and it shows up on your calendar a few minutes later. Drinks with friends? Handled. This is no longer the luxury of executives. Human assistants, even outsourced to foreign countries, are still pretty costly. But a robot, one that lives inside your email and calendar, that's cheap and could catch on. If it works.

"I think it is inevitable that we will reach that point in time where we simply cannot allow you to do a task as simple as this," Dennis Mortensen, CEO of X.AI

In this episode, we test out a new breed of personal assistant. Her, or its, name is Amy Ingram. She's plucky, tenacious, and loves arranging meetings. In contrast to Apple's Siri, Google Now or Microsoft's Cortana, Amy is specialized on one thing and one thing only: scheduling. A new and increasingly common type of software, Amy isn't a program you download, or an app you install.

"I’m just really grateful that I can have that time back to be productive.... I’ve been in heaven honestly," Jonathan Lehr, Co-Founder of Workbench and user of Amy the robot assistant.

You simply email her a request like you would a human—she has her own email address—and Amy comes to understand your natural language. Then she takes over the email ping pong with your friends and colleagues and hashes out the details until a meeting is set. Sound like salvation? In theory. We put her to the test. And also had a little fun using Amy as a daft Turing test on our friends to see if they would know the difference between a robot and a person. Along the way we found out a few dirty secrets about human nature that pop up when you are trying to program a robot helper. Like when our producer Alex tried to break Amy's will.

"For some reason when you know it is a machine the impulse is: I am going to make her cry," Dennis Mortensen.

Next week on the podcast, we'll cover the human cost of automation from job loss to craving that human touch. Subscribe on iTunes, or on StitcherTuneInI Heart Radio, or anywhere else using our RSS feed. And follow us on Twitter @NewTechCity.

* A note: Since the taping of this podcast, Amy and X.AI can now interface with more than just Google Calendar. 

Music Playlist

  1. 1.26 beat1

    Artist: BOPD
    Label: Free Music Archive
  2. Plasm

    Artist: etc.
    Label: Free Music Archive
  3. Heliograph

    Artist: Chris Zabriskie
    Label: Free Music Archive
  4. Cedar

    Artist: Jack Ventimiglia
    Label: BWN Music
  5. Nebulous Notions

    Album: Revolution Void
    Label: Free Music Archive