The problem

Due to Covid-19, tens of millions of people have been forced to work remotely, from their homes. The main challenges these people face are: effective communication with their teams, keeping track of who's working on what, and maintaining a good work-life balance. These challenges are essential because they will encourage people to continue remote working, diminishing the pandemic. And because work efficiency is becoming essential to avoid an economic crisis to follow.

Our Solution (including technical details, architecture, tools used)

Our solution is a digital assistant for remote work capable of removing the friction involved in scheduling and managing online meetings with co-workers [especially in SMEs], helping to keep track of who's working on what and what's the status, and ultimately giving the user a nudge to keep a proper work-life balance and stay healthy. The solution takes advantage of the already existing RoboSelf technology, which is here adapted to the #EUvsVirus challenge.

A key element to developing smart digital assistants is their ability to work with the day-to-day concepts and data relevant for solving the task at had. In this case, the RoboSelf Assistant for Remote Work needs to understand the team, their roles and projects in the company, together with the calendars and meeting. Our solution takes advantage of the Object Oriented Conversational AI technology developed by RoboSelf to facilitate building intelligent digital assistants. The RoboSelf Assistant for Remote Work prototype has been developed in less than two days using this technology by defining a data model, stored in a knowledge graph, and several conversational workflows which are linked to the data model and to external services (such as calendar, video-conferencing tools, TODO lists, OKR apps).

To achieve this, RoboSelf uses and extends several open-source and proprietary solutions for defining data models, using knowledge graphs and building conversational AI. Some of the core technologies we are using are Neo4j, Rasa, CYK grammars and transformer-based NLP models.

The current solution allows to easily add other skills helping with remote work and the covid-19 crisis. These include answering the employees' questions about "EU key information and recommendations about corona virus and its safety barrier best practices" or about "how each company handles the coming months with its own mix and organisation of remote work and physical presence, including the safety best practices to apply at the workplace".

The RoboSelf assistant for remote work can also be improved by adding new skills to help EU citizens interacting with public authorities remotely, but also to improve the productivity of public servants who are now working from home. This requires a more complex integration with various SaaS platforms (e.g. like CORDIS for scientific research), document management platforms and others.

What we have done during the weekend

First, we've launched a survey on Slack and Facebook about the main challenges that people have faced recently, being forced to work from home. We found that 75% of participants have chosen "synchronizing with other people" as one of the main challenges. Specifically the friction in scheduling the meetings with co-workers and keeping track of who is doing what. The second most important challenge was related to staying healthy i.e. taking regular breaks, exercising, meditating, etc. This enabled us to prioritise the various skills ideas we had.

We then used the RoboSelf technology and conversational AI to build the alpha version of an assistant for remote work with two key skills:

  1. Team meetings and synchronization.
  2. Productivity / Work-life balance.

We focused on the flows that have been presented in the demo video i.e. scheduling and managing meetings, adding items on a TODO list, and reminding people of healthy habits like meditation.

The solution’s impact to the crisis

We believe such solution is essential because it will allow and encourage people to continue remote working, with the consequence to decrease the pandemy. And because any improvement in work efficiency is becoming essential to avoid an economic crisis to follow.

The necessities in order to continue

Our plan moving forward is to:

  1. Release the RoboSelf Assistant for Remote Work (Team and Productivity skills) in a private beta
  2. Get 3rd party developers involved to develop new assistant skills:
    1. Covid-19 Q&A
    2. SaaS specific integration actions (e.g. HubSpot for customer relationship)
    3. Provide an integration with Slack for easier communication between the RoboSelf Assistant and an entire team
    4. Wellness
  3. Release the RoboSelf Assistant for Remote Work publicly.

We need help in reaching as many users as possible, especially during the beta testing phase so that we can iterate fast on the skills based on user feedback. Also, we need to work closely with popular SaaS solutions that people use on a daily basis e.g. CRM, Analytics, HR, Recruiting, Accounting, Marketing Automation in order to integrate the RoboSelf Digital Assistant as closely as possible. This route to market will target mainly SMEs which are now forced to work remotely (at least partially) and that are using several SaaS providers (at least, for videoconferences, meetings, OKRs, tasks) to work efficiently.

A different route to market is to develop extended assistants for remote work empowering EU citizens accessing remotely / online public services or public servants working remote from home (e.g. RoboSelf for CORDIS, RoboSelf for DG Connect)

The value of our solution after the crisis

The proposed solution is particularly and more relevant during the pandemy, meaning in 2020. But the solution being general about improving work efficiency and remote work, it will be applicable and very useful along the following years as well. Generally, we believe a digital assistant for work can improve the efficiency of work regardless of whether it is done in an office, co-working space or home.

The URL to the prototype

To setup a new team to test the skills, please request access here.

The URL to the pitch video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wJYKkPSkeY

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Updates

posted an update

First step for us in this hackathon: gather feedback from as many people as possible about potential use cases. So, if you have any ideas about how a digital assistant can make your work easier, do get in touch! #team-c09-roboself

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