If you’re having trouble keeping track of your work and personal life as it’s spread across over 20 different apps and productivity packs, to the point that 5 minutes later you have a meeting you don’t even remember you don’t lonely. We can’t all have PA to keep an eye on us, but Augment hopes that PAI, if you will, can be the next best thing by learning from your every digital interaction and providing the information you need before you even ask for it. It.
“Wait,” I can hear you typing. “Didn’t you write this story five years ago, about Atlas Informatics? Why yes, I saw what kind of memory you have. But Atlas sunk without a tracewhile Napster founder (and co-founder) Jordan Ritter fell out of the limelight after that until Augment got in touch a couple of weeks ago to talk about what the next-gen idea was, with a decidedly more modern approach.
Atlas’ core idea was that “everything seen is remembered”, making your entire online world searchable locally, from appointments and contacts to tab groups and purchases. But linking it to a search appears to have been a mistake, Ritter explained to me, for various reasons, but perhaps simply because searching for something assumes you know what you’re looking for. The new problem is that our data is scattered so widely that you may not even remember that there is something to remember.
“Instead of searching, we are creating a learning AI. At its core, it studies what’s important to you to help you be more productive,” Ritter said. The system will use modules to meet different needs, the first of which is “designed for people whose life is overloaded with meetings. We don’t remember everything; we cannot find all messages or documents at the moment; in the meeting we are involved and at the end we don’t have time to follow up because it’s time for the next meeting. Augment does it for you with the apps you know and love.”
If you’ve ever worked with a talented advisor or assistant, you know how invaluable it is to have this kind of information at your fingertips—and it’s mostly a matter of good organization, not deep familiarity with the people or concepts involved. Not everyone has these skills, and it gets more difficult as the tools we use multiply and decay into each other.
“We used to think of the app ecosystem as a solution,” Ritter said. “Now we have a lot of point solutions and application pages.”
One solution is to do everything in one service or in a pair that are tightly integrated with each other. Well, if you don’t mind being completely dependent on Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Salesforce. “Or you can use us as a bridge between services and use any calendar you want,” he continued.
Augment CTO Dan Sintra, whose resume includes Google and Axon, described what the product should do for the person, who often finds himself unprepared or completely unaware of what’s going on next. (As you may have noticed, I’m one of those people. Actually, I was late to my meeting with the Augment for no good reason.) “We’re looking for context,” Sintra said.
He showed an example of what appeared in their meeting with me: contact information, recent topics in email or other apps, information pulled from whatever databases I was on (usually it would be LinkedIn, etc.), as well as programmatic information such as topics that I usually cover, some personal information and so on. It included documents that were sent between us during the relevant conversations, and if we had previous meetings, it would have links to these records and summaries. After the meeting, you get action items tagged for people, a transcript and summary, and other follow-ups.
All this was displayed through a native app that pops up before and after meetings, but browsers can also be “augmented” with a browser overlay in which AI appears with information where appropriate – in a calendar entry, meeting invitation, or next to a name in the email thread.
Here is a video of the first Augment additions in action:
None of this connects via an API with Gmail, Zoom, or anything else. All this is collected and organized by the Augment agent and collated in their own systems.
“Because we’re on the stack, we pass data as it comes in,” Sintra says. And where is it, exactly? Obviously in a very privileged position, since the agent will have access to your browser, audio input and output, etc. This is necessary for it to work, but it’s not just clearing the screen or anything.
“His main approach is about accessibility and assistive devices – you can think of it as an automatic Evernote,” Ritter suggested. I replied that anyone who worked in information technology or security would probably not hear him because of the alarm bells in his head. After all, it’s a single point of failure that collects data from every service you use.
Ritter acknowledged there might be some skepticism, but they’ve been careful about security and privacy since the beginning, getting SOC 2 certified and making sure users own their data from top to bottom. It may be some time before businesses adopt this level of meta-organization, but he noted that it also took them years to get used to Dropbox, the iPhone, and other now indispensable technologies. For now, they’re targeting individual prosumers, perhaps freelancers working with multiple clients.
Augment is spiraling out of control today after raising a $3.5 million seed round led by Flying Fish and JAZZ Venture Partners with Incisive Ventures and The Allen Institute for the AI Incubator (which I talked about earlier).
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