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December 5, 2013

Isaac Asimov to be honoured in communication platform’s new release

Perzo calls contextual intelligence tool ‘Robbie’ after sci-fi author’s first sentient robot.

By Joe Curtis

Science fiction legend Isaac Asimov gets a tip of the hat from communication tool Perzo, which has named its latest piece of software after the author’s first sentient robot.

The startup went to market just last month with a browser-based platform integrating email, instant messaging (IM) and SMS in an attempt to integrate the various mediums of business communication.

Its new release, planned for early 2014, will feature ‘smart parsing’ technology, which understands what is being written in a message thread, and responds in real time with contextual information.

That is according to Perzo founder and ex-head of Skype Business, David Gurle, who has codenamed the software ‘Robbie’, after Asimov’s imagined first A.I. robot, from his I, Robot short stories.

Gurle told CBR: "We started this about a year ago and we didn’t know where we’d end up but for a given text conversation we’re able to predict what you’re about to do about 90% of the time.

"So you could say you want to meet on this date and it will help you with booking the meeting in respective calendars, suggesting locations, and suggesting available lunch options available nearby. We will introduce that in Q1.

"The speech element will be an incredibly important piece of that scenario. Today it’s kind of science fiction, but it’s not too far from reality. It’s what I would call applied intelligence and that is 12 to 18 months away."

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He also spoke about the high level of encryption on the business messaging service Perzo provides, with the additional Snapchat-esque option of self-deleting messages.

The startup hopes to compete with Outlook and other email clients by offering a free service, but Gurle said Robbie would provide income by hooking into the APIs of e-voucher services to promote discounts for lunch meetings, for example, getting a percentage of revenue for every offer selected.

"Our biggest rival is legacy," he said. "It’s a very fragmented world. You have the phone, instant messaging, you have Skype that does separate things, you have calendar, text, all those things. We’ve reached the maximum explosion of communication.

"It’s time to integrate those. Perzo is the answer to that."

A videoconferencing option is to be added by the Palo Alto-based company in the second half of 2014, but it will not be WebRTC rather than Skype, which has shut down access to its APIs for developers.

But Gurle said RTC is a better system for Perzo than his former company.

He said: "Skype technology requires a download. It’s not browser-based. So you create dependency on third parties deploying that and it doesn’t mean that then it’s adopted. So the dependency is double."

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