A new A.I.-based application for Android users called Less.Mail wants to make it easier for you to work through a crowded inbox, handling routine email responses by way of automatic replies based on the mobile assistant’s understanding of the original email’s context. All users need to do is tell the app if they want to accept or reject the email sender’s invitation, whether that’s a proposed meeting, or something else. These commands are dictated through natural language, instead of via specific keyword triggers, as is required in some other mobile assistant apps.
For example, in a demo video put out by the app’s makers, a Less.Mail user tells the app to “please confirm and accept,” or “No, thanks. But please decline politely.” In a third example, the app’s user is able to respond to an email request “How is that report coming?” by saying to the app: “Just tell him I’m working on it.”
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Less.Mail is the latest creation to come out of Robin Labs, a Palo Alto-based startup focused on building a mobile assistant platform called Robin.AI which is like a more open and extendable version of something like Apple’s Siri or Google Now. The A.I. technology the company built is already powering its flagship application Robin, a more comprehensive mobile assistant app live on Google Play (the Android app store) where it has over 1 million users.
The company was in the news last year for its work in building a Siri-like app for Yahoo, related to some sort of discussions taking place between the two companies. (Robin Labs still has no public comment on this.) The startup is also working on an in-car rear-view mirror system that includes a personal assistant, for its strategic investor Pioneer.
Explains Robin Labs co-founder and CEO Ilya Eckstein, the idea with Less.Mail is to surface one of Robin’s under-developed features involving accessing email by voice. The new app helps to showcase Robin’s A.I. technology in a new way, while also testing the waters with a voice-operated email app to see if this is something the market would respond to.
Less.Mail was built in just a few weeks’ time, as the company already has an Android SDK they could use, speeding things up. If the launch proves successful and users demand it, Eckstein says they may consider taking Less.Mail to other platforms in the future, like iOS. But for now, it’s more of an experiment.
80 Percent of Email is Routine
“It’s called ‘Less’ because it’s [meant to] make your interactions with email take less time, and to be less taxing on you,” says Eckstein. “Approximately 80% of our emails are routine.” Today, email users are regularly writing out short responses to either accept or rejects incoming requests, or moving appointments written out in an email to our calendars, for example. “We’re looking at those 80% and want to simplify those,” he says.
With Less.Mail, the app can create automatic replies to these sorts of routine requests, or you can manually dictate emails if you choose. In addition, it can move the confirmed appointments to your calendar on your behalf.
The question now is whether or not users want to work with email by voice, and if that’s actually going to save time. Or do we feel the need to get our hands dirty with each response, giving it that personal touch?
That said, the app would be a great help for those who need assistive technology due to disabilities, and it could also make cleaning out your inbox an easy-to-perform task for those with long commutes who are generally just killing time behind the wheel listening to music or talk radio and the like. Of course, using this app is also a bit like the movie “Her” brought to life, as it’s a step toward interacting with technology through natural speech, followed by having an artificial intelligence manage things on our behalf.
How well this all works in real life remains to be seen – Robin Labs is only accepting invite requests now, saying that access will be rolled out slowly as they scale up.
You can also request your invite here, if you’re an Android user.