Nov
04
2019
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Microsoft launches managed meeting rooms as a service

Whether you love them or hate them (and you probably hate them), meetings are a fact of corporate life. And how many meetings have you attended that didn’t start on time because of technical difficulties? Microsoft wants to change that by managing your meeting rooms for you — starting at $50 per room. Managed Meeting Rooms, as the company calls the service, is now in private preview, but ahead of today’s announcement, Microsoft already quietly worked with more than 100 customers to manage more than 1,500 meetings rooms for them.

As Brad Anderson, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Microsoft 365, told me, the Teams team did a lot of work to optimize its software to make starting video and audio-based meetings easy.

“But when you think about a room for a minute, there’s a bunch of hardware in the room, in addition to the software that’s operating Teams. There’s the device on the table, you’ve got screens, you got microphones, you’ve got cameras, you’ve got projectors, you’ve got all the cabling,” Anderson said. “And in order for a meeting to be seamless and great, all that hardware also has to be functional. So what we have done with the managed meeting room solution is we have now instrumented all the hardware.”

The solution supports Microsoft Teams Rooms and Skype for Business room systems, but Microsoft also can help companies select the right tools to set up a meeting room. With all of that in place, the company can then monitor all of that through a cloud service and ensure that everything is up and running. When there are issues — at least issues that can be fixed remotely — the team can also fix those and the meeting can start on time.

“Very few organizations have enough rooms to actually get proficient in meeting room management,” Anderson explained. “So it’s one of these things where organizations have to make that choice: do I go and actually try to build up the expertise when it sounds like Microsoft has a solution, which is actually very affordable […] If we just avoid one meeting from going south for 10 minutes, you actually make your money back.”

Mar
07
2018
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Voicera lands $13.5 million with help from big-time enterprise investors

 It seems that everyone agrees that meetings are a time suck. There have been many attempts to use technology to make it easier to organize and run them, but Voicera, a Bay area startup, is attacking the problem from a different angle. It wants to make it simpler to record meetings and pull out action items automatically using artificial intelligence. Today, it announced a $13.5 million Series… Read More

Mar
07
2018
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Voicera lands $13.5 million with help from big enterprise investors

It seems that everyone agrees that meetings are a time suck. There have been many attempts to use technology to make it easier to organize and run them, but Voicera, a Bay area startup, is attacking the problem from a different angle. It wants to make it simpler to record meetings and pull out action items automatically using artificial intelligence. Today, it announced a $13.5 million Series A from a mix of venture capital firms and big-time enterprise investors.

For starters on the venture capital side, the round was led by e.ventures with participation from Battery Ventures, GGV Capital and Greycroft. The big enterprise investors included Cisco Investments, GV (the investment firm affiliated with Google), Microsoft Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Workday Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total raised to over $20 million.

While some companies like Zoom, BlueJeans and GoToMeeting want to help run the meeting and others like Cisco’s Voice Control Assistant want to help you control the nuts and bolts of the meeting using your voice, Voicera wants to concentrate on the meeting transcription side of the equation.

“The whole idea [behind the company] is to focus on conversation and not be distracted by the act of taking notes,” company CEO and founder Omar Tawakol told TechCrunch.

The company’s product is called Eva, an AI-fueled automated note-taking assistant. Eva’s job is to record the meeting, create a transcription, identify the important stuff and send out an email with the highlights to all meeting participants. That’s the ideal anyway.

For now, the transcription while decent, still requires some human oversight to correct errors. While you can specifically tell Eva to record an action item, the goal is to tune the artificial intelligence and machine learning so that the bot can eventually handle this task with as little human intervention as possible.

Voicer interface with meeting highlights. Screenshot: Voicera

The product has a number of integrations including Salesforce, Slack and email. You can share the transcript or action items with these other tools when appropriate. For instance, if you record a meeting with a new customer, the integration allows you to automatically create or update a Salesforce CRM record with data from the meeting.

For now, they are trying err on the side of privacy and are giving meeting participants full control over the transcript with the ability to delete it if they wish. Tawakol says they recognize this is a social experiment and people need to get used to the idea of being recorded and putting the note taking into the hands of technology.

The product is free for now while it’s still in Beta, but in the near future it will move to a subscription model. There will still be a free version, but also various tiers for individuals, teams and enterprises. The pricing is still being worked out, but Tawakol wants to keep it to around $10 a month for an individual user.

Note: We originally published this article as a $20 million Series A. We regret the error.

Nov
02
2017
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Cisco Spark Assistant bringing voice commands to meeting hardware

 Anyone who has used modern meeting software knows it’s still fraught with challenges trying to get everyone into the meeting, futzing with the hardware or software and smoothly integrating external documents like PowerPoint presentations. Cisco is trying to improve and simplify the meeting experience with voice commands, and today it introduced Cisco Spark Assistant, a voice… Read More

Mar
08
2017
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Amazon’s AWS acquired meeting productivity startup Do to expand Chime

A business meeting in a conference room. Amazon has quietly made one more acquisition to build out the productivity services on its cloud platform AWS. The company has acquired Do.com, a startup that had built a platform to make meetings more productive by doing things like managing notes in preparation for them, and creating reports for those who were not there, as well as organising the meetings themselves. Amazon is… Read More

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