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Meet California Startup Voicera’s AI Stenographer

California-based Voicera recently came out of beta and introduced their Enterprise Virtual Assistant (“Eva”), a note-taking AI bot that automatically detects and marks a conference call's important moments and extracts highlights from the call.

Taking notes during business meetings is a challenging task that becomes even more difficult when remote participants are involved or in video conferences. Enterprises of all sizes are turning to cutting-edge artificial intelligence technologies to free their staff from the tedious task and deliver improved note-taking results.

California-based Voicera recently came out of beta and introduced their Enterprise Virtual Assistant (“Eva”), a note-taking AI bot that automatically detects and marks a conference call’s important moments and extracts highlights from the call. Users can add Eva to their video conference as a participant or use the Voicera smartphone app for face-to-face meetings.

CEO Omar Tawakol founded Voicera in 2016. A serial entrepreneur, Tawakol also launched the cloud-based big data platform Bluekai in 2008. BlueKai built the world’s largest consumer data marketplace and data management platform, and was acquired by Oracle in 2014 for a reported US$400 million.

Eva’s mission is to enable meeting participants to be focused and engaged rather than looking down and taking notes.

CMO Cory Treffiletti gave Synced an overview of how Eva works: During a meeting, the bot listens for phrases and terms that are indicative of a critical moment. Voicera engineers have preloaded keywords into the system, such as “meeting,” “schedule,” “launch date” and so on. So for example if a meeting participant says “We are going to launch the product in September…”, Eva will capture this piece of information in real-time and display it as a meeting highlight. Users can also create their own keywords and phrases which Eva will then listen for.

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Eva note-taking screenshot from Voicera’s Slack page

Treffiletti says Eva initially took notes only when prompted to do so by voice, akin to how Alexa or Google Assistant wake up for duty. But the team discovered many users felt awkward addressing an AI, and so added an automatic note-taking mode. This AI-shy factor remains a challenge for Eva, as people are also unaccustomed to having an AI analyze or highlight what they’re saying.

“It takes on average two or three meetings for someone to really grasp the value that we offer,” says Treffiletti. “We’re seeing that after three or four meetings, they become more comfortable with the notes that Eva is taking.”

Voicera addressed privacy concerns by incorporating a convenient pause function. Eva can be permanently kicked out of a meeting at the push of a button, and attendees can access the Voicera dashboard to delete meeting transcripts or highlights.

Some people however remain reluctant to put away their pencil and paper.

“Voicera is not going to replace humans’ ability to take notes,” says Treffiletti, noting that users can also add their own comments to the meeting timeline.

Last month Voicera introduced Progressive Attention AI, a dual AI system and NLP platform that improves Eva’s performance in both highlight extraction and speech recognition accuracy. Voicera says the AI system can double the accuracy of today’s top transcription engines in conference calling environments.

Voicera also recently launched its first commercial product, the premium subscription service Voicera Pro.

Voicera has raised a total of US$20 million from big names such as Microsoft Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Cisco Ventures, and Salesforce Ventures, who have been pouring money into the video conferencing sector for years to keep their services competitive.

Voicera plans to add additional enterprise administrative functionality and features to Eva in the near future, while also expanding the scope of voice commands to include tasks such as creating calendar items and scheduling meetings.

Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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