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Augment AI assistant aims to go beyond Siri, Alexa and Google

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When we talk about virtual assistants, Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant are usually the first names that come to mind.

But let’s face it: those kinds of digital helpers are mostly just voice command systems – combined with a bit of basic automation. In general they don’t really care much help out us in all life-changing, efficiency-enhancing ways.

A secretly shrouded startup called enlarge is convinced that there is room for something more. The company has been working in stealth mode for the past year, with no detail beyond some mysterious teasing about “the future of productivity” on its website. But now it sheds its cloak and opens its doors. And it’s rushing out the gates with the bold promise of taking our virtual assistant’s expectations to whole new dimensions.

The Augment website has provided little guidance as to the actual purpose or intent of the product.

Augment launches this morning in a limited beta version available by invitation only. I had the chance to chat with the founders of Augment and see a demo of the service’s initial capabilities ahead of today’s grand opening. And let me tell you: based on this early sneak peek, at least the service seems incredibly intriguing — and absolutely chock-full of productivity-boosting potential.

A different kind of assistant

The name Augment may not be familiar to most of us yet, but make no mistake: the people behind it are no strangers to the tech universe.

The company’s CEO and creator, Jordan Ritter, is best known for helping us get Napster at the turn of the last century (along with, yeah, that other guy — you know, the one played by Justin Timberlake in the Facebook movie). Its co-founder and product head of Augment, Daniel Ladvocat Cintra, is a former Googler who has spent the better part of a decade working on the business side of the search giant.

The two, along with co-founder Saurav Pahadia and a small team of other artificial intelligence-obsessed humans (plus a dog), are determined to introduce us to a whole new side of AI-driven aid — one that works proactively on our and helps us in some really meaningful ways.

Clockwise from left: Jordan Ritter (co-founder and CEO), Saurav Pahadia (co-founder and chief engineer), Daniel Ladvocat Cintra (co-founder and chief of product), Clara Leitão (marketing manager), Ziyun Tie (UX- researcher), and Kenzie (dog)

So let’s dive into some details, shall we? In a nutshell, Augment adds tons of augments (get it?!) to your existing devices. Those small letters are best described as layers of intelligence that observe what you’re doing and then intervene when needed to make sure you always have the information you need, exactly when you need it.

If that concept rings a bell, congratulations: you’ve been paying attention. At least philosophically, Augment is strikingly similar: heydaya context surfacing service I covered for londonbusinessblog.com earlier this year. But while Heyday focuses solely on your browser and the information you interact with on the web, Augment works at the operating system level, trying to serve much broader and more ambitious goals.

For example, one of the key features of Augment is acting as an intelligent assistant for your various virtual meetings. With the software installed on your computer (Mac for now, Windows support coming soon, Android and iOS versions in the future), Augment monitors all of your work throughout the day. And since it’s a locally installed program, it’s familiar with anything you open, be it a web app, a news site, a traditional note-taking or word processing program, or practically anything you can think of.

The Augment home screen shows you a history of all your work and the context in which it was collected.

When you go to a meeting, Augment automatically tries to bring together all the information you need to prepare – anything you see you interact with that could be relevant, ranging from previous emails and Slack messages with you co-participants to documents and websites you viewed during the preparation. It collects all that information in a custom folder and delivers it to you the moment your meeting starts.

“I have nine pages of apps on my phone and none of them talk to each other – so how many places? [would] I have to hunt for all that context?” asks Ritter. “We bring it all together.”

When you enter a meeting, Augment provides you with a complete briefing with all kinds of context and related information.

Augment doesn’t stop helping when the meeting starts either: During your meetings, it can quietly take notes for you and then automatically create an intelligent summary, along with a list of action items and even a full transcript. All that information is then sent your way when the meeting is over, along with a complete collection of your related documents and conversations.

And the goal is for it to work the same way, consistently, no matter what websites, apps, or services you’re using at any given time.

“Because of where we’re in the stack, we’re not integrated into Zoom, Google Meet, or anything,” explains Cintra. “We’re actually tapping in at the OS level and so we’re tapping [directly] into that audio data stream so we can transcribe conversations from whatever source you might have your conversations on.”

Augments everywhere

Everything we’ve talked about so far has revolved around the first layer of Augment: the ability to help you in meetings. But remember: Augment (the service) includes several increases (the layers with added information).

At launch, Augment will have three other focus areas centered on memory, calendar, and tasks. This gives you access to similar kinds of intelligently compiled and automatically curated bits of context from other parts of your computing experience.

For example, you can call up Augment while browsing the web and ask it to show you everything related to an ongoing contract with your company. In that scenario, Augment can bring out relevant information from your notes, documents, contacts, past meetings, or anywhere else you’ve seen you working on something related to that topic.

Augment can bring together all the information you’ve worked with on any topic anywhere on your device.

You can also invoke Augment directly from your calendar — be it a local calendar program or a web-based calendar service like Google Calendar — giving you additional context about the specific people involved in an upcoming meeting, gathered from your web browsing history. and past interactions.

In your calendar, Augment uses your past activity to inform your future interactions.

It all boils down to the same basic principle of having an assistant act as an overlay and an extra connecting layer in your existing productivity settings – without having to change your habits or learn anything new.

“For anyone building a new product, the first question is usually: what are you replacing in someone’s workflow? How are you going to change their behavior? How are they going to discover your product?” says Ritter. “Our answer is: No. Everything we do is overlay [on top of] whatever your system’s apps are, and we’ll bring the missing context and smarts wherever they’re needed.”

Of course, you can’t run software on your computer and watch your every move without wondering about privacy. Augment uses enterprise-level security, assures Ritter, with all data encrypted both in transit and at rest, and no information is ever viewed or shared. The other big caveat is how well it all works in the real world. We’ve heard endless big promises about the power of AI to help us in a variety of ways — both from the tech giants and from shoddy startups determined to beat the big companies at their own primary games. And more often than not, the practical benefits of each new innovation appear in reality far less life-changing than they initially appeared in carefully curated demos or marketing videos.

Today the real test for Augment begins: People around the world are starting to get their hands on the technology, moving beyond the polished presentations to see how it compares in everyday use.

If you want to experience Augment yourself, you can Sign up on the company’s website request early access. It’s free for now, but only during this current beta phase. The specific price for Augment’s post-beta life is yet to be determined, but Ritter and Cintra say it will be built around a freemium subscription model, with certain features remaining free and the full experience requiring an annual or monthly subscription (for individuals to purchase). starting, with team options in the works).

It’s clearly too early for this kind of technology, but Augment’s software holds great promise. For those of us who’ve been waiting for a true AI assistant to make our lives easier and do more than just respond to our commands, it’s a tantalizing glimpse into a long-promised future that could finally be within our grasp.

For even more dazzling productivity knowledge, check out my free Android Intelligence Newsletter and receive three things to know in your inbox every Friday.

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