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Would You Allow An AI Personal Assistant Organise Your Life?

Find out what it's like to work with Evie, an AI personal assistant.

My PA is an AI named Evie. At first, I was apprehensive about allowing a smart robot system to dictate part of my work life, not fully trusting its abilities to understand me and the people I communicate with.

For effective assistance, Evie must recognise the wordings of my e-mails, which can be confusing, even to the eye of a human. This is especially so when I’m in a rush, use lingos or get my dates completely mixed up for a meet-up — which of course, was exactly what happened.

Although I must commend Evie, who specialises in scheduling, for making out my sloppy threads of messages and successfully negotiating a time and place for a meeting with one of my key informants — even if it ended up on an unsuitable date. Still, like I said, the blunder was on my part.

The rules of the game are actually pretty straightforward. Include Evie in an email thread, say something in your ‘natural language’ such as: “Hi Evie, please find me a time to meet Sandy on the 4th” and she’ll see to it in a jiffy. You get the date right, and Evie will look through your availability via your calendar and preset preference to suggest some apt timing and location to meet. Once that is confirmed at the other party’s end, Evie sends out a calendar invite to all involved, and your scheduled hook-up appears in your datebook automatically.

Evie was created by two former Yahoo executives, Jin Hian Lee and Praveen Velu, because they were sick and tired of spending hours fulfilling administrative and scheduling duties at work. They co-founded the Singapore-based start-up (now in 2013 to expand on their idea.

Velu says: “The majority of our time in the office is spent going back and forth with mind-numbing tasks that can be taken over by machines, and software is at a point where we can build it to communicate more like human beings and update data like a personal assistant, so you can be freer and focus on doing what you’re good at doing at work, like writing articles, getting the deal done, becoming a mini-CEO.”

Even big businesses will soon be able to benefit from Evie’s efficiency and ease of use. Velu says: “After we launched our product commercially last year to individual users, many asked about a corporate package so we’re currently working towards a full enterprise version in Q3 of this year.”

The 37-year-old first-time father of a baby boy adds: “If we can get people out of the office at 4 o’clock because Evie has automated a ton of stuff, that would be a worthy goal. Parents can spend more time with their kids, and we can just be part of the other ecosystems in which we exist besides work.”

Right now, Evie gets the job done. If she is fed with the right information, she can even calculate time-zone differences, provide full addresses, and urgently clear your calendar for the day.

Her challenge is to find ‘the stickiness factor’ and be able to emote and build empathy with the people she deals with. Velu says: “The more human-like and livelier you are, the more people will want to connect. We’re trying to give Evie a personality, but since two guys, Jin and I, worked on most of her responses, she sometimes sounds like two persons.”

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