By admin - June 19th, 2017

We all carry around a lot of information, communicate with different people across various platforms, and many of us are setting copious reminders to try and keep our work and personal lives in sync. Astro’s email app promises to integrate it all in one place using AI and now integrates with Slack and offers voice commands courtesy of Amazon’s Alexa.

The executives behind Astro Technology sport impressive communications cred, several of the founders were at Zimbra, an open source email calendaring collaboration company acquired by Yahoo for $350 million, and others came from Mumbo, a mobile messaging company that LinkedIn acquired, while still others were at Versly that was bought by Cisco Systems.
Astro Technology co-founder/CEO Andy Pflaum discussed the nascent AI system, which is aimed primarily at business users, with Open Mobile Media’s Robert Gray…
 
OMM: What’s the idea behind Astro and how does it help?
Pflaum:We believe there is an almost unlimited amount of information that flows at people in the workplace. It’s an inefficient use of our smart brains to sift through every message or piece of communication to see if I need to do something and when I need to do it by. Machine learning can figure it out 80 percent or more of the time--whether you should prioritize something or gives you some idea of how you want to leverage it, the power of AI to help people in teams and the communications and activities that are most important to them.
It’s deducing what you’re likely going to be reminded about without setting flags and reminders for every single message.
It helps people prioritize communications and helps declutter their mailbox. Astro asks if you want to unsubscribe from a list because you’re not reading them.
 
OMM: How are you integrating AI into the Astro email experience?
Pflaum:You set priority messages, from real people you’ve interacted with. Other messages are system notifications, newsletters, and package deliveries.
 
The algorithm is based on your behavior, explicit signals so you can manually say this message is a non-priority and we’ll learn from that and adjust accordingly. The system finds what people want to deal with first.
You can designate someone as VIP or the system will recognize from your interactions and asks if you want to make them one. You can even choose to only get notifications from VIPs.
You can archive and snooze messages--swipe to snooze off until a designated time. Astro desktop is option, to only remind me when I’m back on desktop {not while still on mobile}. You can send messages later a time you want to, track if it’s opened or if she’s replied and remind me to follow up if she hasn’t and if she does reply, it will cancel the reminder.
 
OMM: And then there are the three S’s…swipe, snooze, and send later. How does this work?
Pflaum:You can archive and snooze messages--swipe to snooze off until a designated time. Astro desktop is option, to only remind me when I’m back on desktop {not while still on a mobile device}. You can send messages later a time you want to, track if it’s opened or if the recipient’s replied and remind me to follow up if she hasn’t and if she does reply, it will cancel the reminder.
And Zap cleans up your mailbox, for emails over 30 days it does one sweep and archives them out of your mailbox.
Choose subscriptions and it will suggest ones you should delete because you’re not reading them.
 
OMM: So you launched on mobile (iOS and Android) and desktop, supporting Office 365, Gmail, and Google’s G Suite. The big news now is that you’re adding voice commands with Amazon’s Alexa and integrating with Slack. What functionality will users have on these platforms?
Pflaum:Astro is a bridge between email and Slack, search brings back a set of results from both email and Slack.
I can get my entire email in (Slack), buttons let me reply, snooze, archive, delete, and the changes are reflected back to my Gmail or Office 365 account. You can choose which accounts and a unified view of results.
You can share a form of a card to include an attachment, so you can collaborate and choose to receive their email messages or key messages inside of Slack.
You don’t have to use the Astro app on your phone on desktop. We are onboarding through Slack or our homepage. Anyone in the world on Slack can connect their Gmail or Office 365 capabilities.
 
OMM: And how does it work with Alexa?
Pflaum:It’s becoming available not just on Echo but on all kinds of platforms including cars and mobile. Alexa gives you the option to have messages read to you or to skip them. You can send messages (using voice commands), snooze to desktop and Astrobot gives access to priority or VIP messages and take triage actions on them.
 
OMM: There’s no charge for Astro, so how will you monetize the service?
Pflaum: Everything so far is free and will continue to be free, going forward we’ll introduce premium tier services—features that help a salesperson or outbound team member to track who’s responded to messages they’ve sent, we can provide more advanced versions for power users. That salesperson or outbound communications person can have good tracking about all the details of the messages they’ve sent, that’s an example of the premium service in the second half.
But the next major step in the second half is launching a set of premium services that individual users and teams can upgrade to from the free apps. We’ll integrate with additional services, that allow integrations of apps like ours or bots like Astrobot, whether it’s SalesForce CRM, a help desk app or Facebook messenger are examples that support integrations with other apps and the presence of an intelligent bot from a third-party application.
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