If you often have to schedule meetings with people outside of your company, you may be aware that this activity can be really time-consuming. Having no access to the other person’s calendar means that you’ll probably have to send a couple of emails to settle for a time that suits everyone.
But what if you could delegate this hassle to a personal digital assistant? That’s pretty much what Microsoft wants you to do, as the company introduced today a new project called Calendar.help that is leveraging Cortana to allow the assistant to set up meetings on your behalf.
"Calendar.help is the latest project in a series of coordinated investments across Microsoft that bring together artificial intelligence (AI), conversational computing and calendaring," explained Microsoft. The project is the result of a partnership between Microsoft Research, the Office team and Genee, a scheduling AI startup that Microsoft acquired earlier this year.
To try the new service, you can join the preview waitlist on the Calendar.help website and Microsoft will review your calendar to see if you're eligible for the exclusive preview. Once your email address has been registered, you can get started by just Cc’ing Cortana to an email and ask her to help you schedule a meeting with your correspondent by using natural language:
When you write the email, give Cortana instructions by including natural language to specify the length of the meeting (e.g. “let’s make this one 90 minutes”), timing (e.g. “sometime next week”) and location (“make this a Skype meeting”). Alternatively, you can set-up default preferences in advance and Cortana will use those settings without additional commands.
Once you sent your email, Cortana will search your calendar and then email your correspondents with by date and time propositions. Attendees will then be able to reply to Cortana by email, and when a date has finally been found Cortana will then create a calendar appointment and send an invite to everyone. "All interactions are natural and conversational—as if a real-life assistant was coordinating the meeting," added Microsoft.
Overall, this new project seems to be a great use case of Microsoft’s artificial intelligence research, even though relying Cortana as a true professional assistant could take some time to get used to. Would trust Cortana to set up your meetings for you? Let us know your thoughts about this new AI use case in the comments below.