Setting up a meeting with someone outside your company can be a time-consuming hassle. When you can’t see each other’s calendars and free/busy information, working out a time to meet can easily take more time than the duration of the meeting itself. Emailing back and forth, proposing alternative times and dealing with conflicts keep you from doing more productive work. Wouldn’t it be great and save a lot of time if you had your own personal scheduling assistant?
Overcoming the challenges of scheduling meetings outside your organization is the goal of a new Microsoft incubation project code-named “Calendar.help.” This project gives Cortana, your personal digital assistant, the ability to arrange meetings on your behalf. By delegating scheduling tasks to Cortana, you can focus on getting things done rather than wasting time emailing back and forth.
Calendar.help is the latest project in a series of coordinated investments across Microsoft that bring together artificial intelligence (AI), conversational computing and calendaring. The project, which we introduced today at a Microsoft AI event in San Francisco, combines efforts from Microsoft Research, Outlook, Cortana and Genee—a scheduling AI startup that Microsoft acquired in August.
How does it work?
To use this new service, you will first need to sign up for the preview waitlist at Calendar.help. Once you are accepted into the program, scheduling a meeting is as simple as adding Cortana to the Cc: line on an email from your registered email address.
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.
To schedule your meeting, simply add Cortana to the Cc line.
After you send the email, Cortana looks at your calendar to find times you are available and then reaches out to the invitees to propose times. Cortana communicates directly with the attendees so the back and forth emailing won’t clutter your inbox. As attendees reply with their availability, Cortana keeps the conversation moving forward until a time that works for everyone is found. Cortana also follows up with attendees if they don’t respond within 48 hours.
Cortana handles the back and forth of scheduling.
Once the date and time are confirmed, Cortana creates an event in your calendar with all the details and then sends out an invite to everyone.
Once the date and time are confirmed, Cortana sends a calendar event to the attendee from your calendar.
All interactions are natural and conversational—as if a real-life assistant was coordinating the meeting. The service is powered by both machine and human intelligence to ensure that all scheduling requests are handled with accuracy.
Join the Calendar.help Exclusive Preview
Microsoft is always looking for ways to help you do your job better. The Calendar.help project is an example of how we are working to add intelligence to our productivity apps so you can focus on more important things. Today we are making these scheduling capabilities available in an exclusive preview for customers who are interested in helping improve the service, especially those who frequently schedule meetings with people outside their organization. If you would like to be considered for the preview, visit: Calendar.help and let’s schedule some time together.
—The Calendar.help team