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Don’t let this AI assistant plan your Thanksgiving dinner

by Jacob Kleinman | November 25, 2015

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Thanksgiving dinner with my family always seems to come together at the last minute, but this year was different. Instead of the usual back-and-forth planning, my aunt decided to use a new piece of AI software to coordinate the meal, and it almost ruined everything.

The software in question is called x.ia and it acts as a sort of digital personal assistant who can plan your meetings for you over email. It’s designed to take some of the headache out of coordinating your schedule with another person, and tries to replicate the experience of communicating with an actual human. It even signs each email as Amy Ingram, though as I soon learned that didn’t mean it was beyond making the kind of mistakes a real person would easily avoid.

The emails started innocently enough with a message from my aunt to the rest of my family, introducing us to the virtual assistant that could “supposedly” help schedule meetings. Then a few minutes later Amy sent me an email asking if Friday, November 27 at 11 a.m. 2 p.m. would work for Thanksgiving dinner. The following Monday morning was apparently also an option.

At that point I decided to ignore Amy and just see what happened next. She seemed to take the hint, and came back an hour later with a slightly more reasonable suggestion: Thursday November 26 (sounds good so far) at 10 a.m. (swing and a miss, at least for dinner).  Finally, a few hours later with some guidance from my more patient family members, Amy managed to land on a more reasonable 6 p.m. dinner time.

The next morning, I reached out to my aunt to ask what she thought of Amy’s performance. She told me that was her first time using the software and she wasn’t very impressed. Amy definitely isn’t ready to schedule any meetings with actual clients, though she might be allowed a chance to coordinate between my aunt and her colleagues.

I also spoke to x.ia founder and CEO Dennis Mortensen, who offered a few possible explanations for what went wrong. Amy is really meant for work meetings, not family dinners, and while she does recognize local holidays, the Friday after Thanksgiving may have been too complex a concept for the software to wrap its virtual head around.

Despite this bizarre incident, x.ia actually sounds like a pretty promising idea. I’ve already set up a meeting with the company for the Monday after Thanksgiving (scheduled by Amy Ingram of course), and I’m looking forward to trying it for myself. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share this amusing story of technology gone wrong.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...


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