If you’re having trouble keeping track of your work and personal life, spread over 20 different apps and productivity suites, to the point where you can’t even remember to hold a 5-minute meeting, you’re not alone. We can’t all have a PA to track for us, but Augment thinks PAI could be the next best thing, learning from every digital interaction you want and giving you the information you need before you even ask. That’s it.
“Wait,” I hear you type. “Didn’t you write this story about Atlas Informatics five years ago?” Why yes, I did — what a memory you have. But Atlas sank without a trace, while founder (and Napster co-founder) Jordan Ritter dropped off my radar until two weeks ago, when Augment reached out to talk about a next-generation idea, a decidedly more modern approach.
The basic idea of Atlas is that “what’s seen is remembered,” making your entire online world natively searchable, from appointments and contacts to tab groups and purchases. But tying it to looking for it felt wrong, Ritter explained to me, for a variety of reasons, but perhaps because searching for something makes you think you know what you’re looking for. The new problem is that our data is so widely spread that you can’t remember that there is something to remember.
“Instead of searching, we are building AI that learns. At its foundation, it’s learning what’s important to you so you can be more productive,” Ritter said. The system uses modules to meet various needs, the first of which is “for people with meeting-jammed lives. We don’t remember everything; We cannot locate all communications or documents at this time; We were busy in the meeting and we didn’t have time to do follow-ups at the end because it was time for the next meeting. Augment does this for you alongside the apps you know and love.
If you’ve ever worked with a talented EA or PA, you know how invaluable it is to have information like this at your fingertips – and it’s mostly about good organization, not deep familiarity with people or individuals. Not everyone has those skills, and it’s become harder as the tools we use multiply and adapt themselves.
“We thought of the app ecosystem as the solution,” Ritter said. “Now we have tons of point solutions and apps pages.”
One solution is to do everything in one service or a couple that are very close together. Happy if you don’t mind being completely at the mercy of Google, Microsoft, Apple or Salesforce. “Or you can use us as a bridge between services and use whatever calendar you want,” he continued.
Augment’s CTO Dan Cintra, with a resume including Google and Axon, explained what the product does for someone who is often unprepared or completely unaware of what’s coming next. (As you can tell, I’m one of these people. I’m actually late to a meeting with Augment for no good reason.) “We’re fixing for the occasion,” Sintra said.
He showed me an example of what was shown for their meeting with me: contact information, recent threads in email or other apps, information pulled from databases I have (which is usually LinkedIn and so on), as well as soft information like topics I usually cover, some personal details, etc. It contains documents passed between us in relevant conversations, and if we have had previous meetings, it includes links to those recordings and summaries. After the meeting, you’ll get action items tagged to people, a transcript and summary, and other follow-ups.
All of this is displayed through a native app that pops up before and after meetings, but browsers can also be “augmented,” with a browser overlay that AI pops up with the appropriate information — in a calendar entry, in a meeting invitation, or next to a name in an email thread.
Here’s a video of Augment’s first Augments:
None of this is pulled by Gmail, Zoom or any other APIs. All of these are collected and managed by Augment Agent and compiled into their own systems.
“Where we’re sitting in the stack, we’re streaming the data as it comes in,” Sintra said. And where is it, exactly? In a very special capacity, of course, the agent has access to your browser, sound in and out, etc. It needs it to operate, but it’s not all about screen scraping or hacking together.
“Its main approach is through accessibility and assistive devices — you can think of it as an automatic Evernote,” Ritter suggests. I replied that anyone working in IT or security probably wouldn’t have heard him with alarm bells ringing in their head. It’s after a single failure that aggregates data from every service you use.
Ritter admits there may be some skepticism, but says they carefully built for security and privacy from the ground up, getting SOC 2 certification and ensuring users own their data from top to bottom. It may take some time for enterprises to become okay with this level of meta-organization, he points out, but it took years for them to embrace Dropbox, iPhones and other technologies that are now inevitable. At the moment they are targeting individual prosumers, perhaps freelancers juggling multiple clients.
Augment is coming out of stealth today after raising a $3.5 million seed round led by Flying Fish and Jazz Venture Partners in partnership with Incisive Ventures and the Allen Institute for AI’s incubator (which I’ve covered before ).