Microsoft has announced a new project called Calendar.help, which aims to make scheduling meetings easier. More specifically, it leverages the power of Cortana to make setting up meetings with people outside an organization simpler. The company announced the new incubation project on its Office blog today.
The Calendar.help website is up and running and welcoming preview users. Microsoft explains that scheduling meetings with people outside an organization can be tough. There are no shared calendars and often emails need to be exchanged to find a good time.
Calendar.help hopes save time by handing over the process to Cortana and automating scheduling. Microsoft says the project is part of a company-wide push towards artificial intelligence and conversational computing.
The new service brings together efforts from Microsoft Research, Outlook, and Cortana. Genee, a specialist in calendaring AI was also part of the project after Microsoft acquired the company in August.
Calendar.help Powered by Cortana
Interested customers can sign up to be a preview member now, but visiting the official website. If accepted as a tester, scheduling meetings becomes much easier. Instead of email chains to find a right time, users can simply write Cortana into the Cc: line on an email.
Microsoft explains in its blog how Cortana can automate the scheduling when composing an email:
“When you write the email, give Cortana instructions by including natural language to specify the length of the meeting (e.g. “let's make this one 90 minutes”), timing (e.g. “sometime next week”) and location (“make this a Skype meeting”). Alternatively, you can set-up default preferences in advance and Cortana will use those settings without additional commands.”
Once an email is sent, Cortana automatically checks your calendar to check your schedule. Learning a schedule, the digital assistant will then send invites based on times you are available. Invitees who respond will be managed by Cortana until a shared available time for the meeting is agreed on.
Microsoft says that Cortana will maintain a real-like conversation with invitees and follow up if there is no reply within 48 hours.