Will your company’s next assistant be a robot?

It knows your computer files better than you do, demands no salary, and could replace human staff

Will your company’s next assistant be a robot?
It knows how to schedule meetings, book flights, and even brief you on prospective clients – and this robot might soon replace the assistants in your office.

Meet Ava, an automated assistant who understands your documents, workmates, and contacts better than you do.

The software, created by Toronto start-up Zoom.ai, won the Tech Den award at the inaugural Canadian HR Tech Summitin June.

Since then, HR professionals have been jumping at the chance to use it, founder Roy Pereira says.

“The exposure was great. We’ve already received a lot of inbound interest just because of that award.”

Ava (that’s its name in the free software; paying clients can change it to anything they want) grew from the realization that workers were actually losing time by juggling more and more productivity apps which had each promised to make their work lives easier.

And, Pereira adds, though human assistants still perform crucial functions, they’re becoming too expensive for many companies to hire or keep on.

He believes Ava and its peers will likely hasten the demise of assistants – but he sees it as a good thing.

“AI will replace low-level duties, and those job functions shouldn’t be done by humans – we’re much, much smarter than some of those jobs.

“Yes, those job duties will be gone, will be automated [but] it allows our employees to do higher level work, to do more interesting work within the company, and it allows us to do what we’re really good at.”

Zoom.ai’s assistant is also more of a tech whiz than most human workers: it operates with many different tech stacks – including Microsoft and Google products – and unlike iPhone’s generalist Siri, Ava is a specialist when it comes to workplaces.

It knows the wifi password, can tell staff where to find documents - from vacation forms to non-disclosure agreements - and is able to facilitate “introductions” to contacts.

It can also arrange meetings, brief the boss on what to talk about – and even book an Uber to get there.

Related stories:
Are we on the verge of ‘peak human’?
Concerns raised after robot kills worker

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