www.office.com/setup Establishing a meeting with someone outside your company can be a hassle that takes a long time. When you can not see each other’s calendars and availability information, scheduling a time to meet may take more time than the duration of the meeting. Sending back and forth emails, proposing alternative schedules and dealing with conflicts prevents you from doing more productive work. Would not it be great and save a lot of time if you had your own personal programming assistant?

Overcoming the challenges of scheduling meetings outside of your organization is the goal of a new Microsoft incubation project called “Calendar.help”. This project gives Cortana, your personal digital assistant, the ability to organize meetings on your behalf. By delegating programming tasks to Cortana, you can focus on doing things instead of wasting time sending back and forth emails.

Calendar.help is the latest project in a series of coordinated investments in Microsoft that brings together artificial intelligence (AI), conversational computing and the calendar. The project, which we are presenting today at a Microsoft AI event in San Francisco, combines the efforts of Microsoft Research, Outlook, Cortana and Genee, an AI start-up that Microsoft acquired in August.

How does it work?

To use this new service, you must first register to get the preview waiting list in Calendar.help. Once you are accepted into the program, scheduling a meeting is as simple as adding Cortana to the Cc line: in an email from your registered email address.

When writing the email, give Cortana instructions including the natural language to specify the duration of the meeting (for example, “let’s do this one 90 minutes”), the time (for example, “sometime next week”) and location (“make this a Skype meeting” “). Alternatively, you can set the default preferences in advance and Cortana will use those settings without additional commands.

To schedule your meeting, simply add Cortana to the Cc line.

After sending the email, Cortana looks at her calendar to find the hours it is available and then communicates with the guests to propose schedules. Cortana communicates directly with the assistants so that the round-trip email does not temper your inbox. While attendees respond with their availability, Cortana keeps the conversation going until a schedule that works for everyone is found. Cortana also follows up with attendees if they do not respond within 48 hours.

Cortana handles the coming and going of programming.

Once the date and time are confirmed, Cortana creates an event on your calendar with all the details and then sends an invitation to everyone.

Once the date and time are confirmed, Cortana sends a calendar event to the attendees of her calendar.

All interactions are natural and colloquial, as if a real-life assistant was coordinating the meeting. The service has human and machine intelligence to ensure that all programming requests are handled accurately.

Join the exclusive preview of Calendar.help

Microsoft is always looking for ways to help you do your job better. The Calendar.help project is an example of how we are working to add intelligence to our productivity applications so that you can focus on more important things. Today we are making these programming capabilities available in an exclusive preview for customers who are interested in helping to improve the service, especially those who frequently schedule meetings with people outside their organization. If you want to be considered for the preview, visit: Calendar.help and schedule some time together.

-The Calendar.help team

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