‘Hey Hendrix, join the conference call’ – the AI bot from Edmonton

Virtual digital assistants are for more than just the home or on your phone, artificial intelligence (AI) powered assistants are gaining traction in the enterprise market and Edmonton-based Testfire Labs is throwing its hat in the ring with a new AI assistant for meetings.

Source: Testfire Labs Instagram

Released Tuesday, Hendrix AI is a digital assistant that can join and transcribe meetings while also creating summaries about key topics and offering insights from the meeting.

Founded just over a year ago Testfire Labs chief executive officer and founder Dave Damer started the company after working for 18 years in the start-up world, seeing issues within workplaces and deciding to focus on improving workplace productivity.

“What we decided to do was narrow it down to a very specific area, which was the meetings,” Nathan Beck, businesses development manager at Testfire Labs told ITBusiness.ca, “Meetings are huge pain points for a lot of organizations, especially large ones. Senior managers spend a lot of their time in meetings.” Therefore Hendrix came out of the idea to improve productivity at meetings through insights and feedback.

How it works

Hendrix works as an AI assistant than joins in on meetings through conference call platforms such as Zoom GoToMeetings, Uber Conference and other major conferencing platforms. It also works through dial-in services, on desktop and through the mobile app.

It can also automatically join meetings; if it is added to the calendar, the AI is able to interpret the conference call details and join.

During meetings Hendrix records and transcribes in real time, and once the meeting is complete not only offers a transcript but a summary with notes on the key topics discussed. It can also offer insights about the meeting such as how much time and money is spent on meetings, are action items accurately discussed and are they being followed up on. All this can be viewed on the Hendrix dashboard, which at launch is available on desktop but Testfire hopes to make that feature available through the app at some point as well, says Beck.

He also tells ITBusiness.ca that Testfire Labs hopes to continue to improve the product even after its initial launch, hoping to add more insights and analytics as well as other features based on customer feedback.

AI assistants for business

While Hendrix may be one of the first AI meeting assistant specifically designed in Canada, there is a growing market for this type of product with a number of other AI-based services already available that offer transcription and summaries, such as Fireflies.ai, Otter.ai and Eva from Voicera. Big names like Microsoft, Amazon and Google have also been working on and offer transcription services. There is also a growing market for AI personal assistants for business that schedule and plan meetings.

However what sets Hendrix apart, says Beck, other than his rock-star name (and no, its was not actually named after Jimi Hendrix unfortunately), is that it runs on customized algorithms thanks to IBM Watson.

“We spent quite a bit of time building and customizing language models,” says Beck, “That was very key for us, because the majority of language models that exist are trained off of classic literature, movie scripts, book scripts, or a simple command-to-query.”

He claims that many of the other transcription platforms use “off-the-shelf speech-to-text tools and they don’t do any customized work on top of it. They’re just reselling you what they bought just packaged a little nicer…and the speech to text isn’t quite as accurate.” By choosing Watson, he says Testfire Labs was able to make its own language models that offer data accuracy of 80 to 85 per cent.

The Edmonton-based Testfire which is run out of Startup Edmonton (a hub for connecting tech companies), held an original seed funding round for Hendrix raising $1.5 million from Alberta Innovates, and the federal government-based Industrial Research Assistance Program and Build in Canada Innovation Program. It’s planning to hold a Series A funding round starting next year.

During its nine-month beta testing Hendrix saw use from over 100 companies including the Government of Canada, Shell, L’Oreal and PwC Canada. With its launch this week Testfire hopes to continue to develop Hendrix says Beck, including improving its insights capabilities, helping companies analyze and meet goals, creating groups similar to Slack channels as well as potentially adding multi-lingual capabilities.

To use Hendrix it costs $39 a month on a yearly commitment for an individual plan which includes unlimited meetings. It will also be available on an enterprise plan which will offer more customization features with pricing on a case-by-case basis.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Meagan Simpson
Meagan Simpson
Meagan Simpson is a Jr. staff writer for IT World Canada. A graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program, she loves sports, travelling, reading and photography, and when not covering tech news she can be found cuddled up on the couch with her cat and a good book.

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