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Smart apps think (so you don't have to)

Mike Elgan | March 11, 2013
A new generation of free intelligent assistant apps represents the future of everything. But are they too smart?

If This Then That ( IFTTT) is a good example of a smart service that acts primarily as glue. (If somebody sells a time machine on Craigslist, then sends me a message on Facebook.)

It's not immediately clear that everybody will embrace "smart" apps, services and features. I suspect that smart features will start showing up in so many places all at once that users will feel overwhelmed and confused, unable to understand which services are doing what.

That's why I'm a big fan of an iOS app called EasilyDo, which does something I like to call "facilitated reality." Instead of just doing things for you, it notifies you about things you probably want to do, and then does them for you only after you tap the "Do It" button.

It's like a caddy that discovers the best nearby golf course, drives you there, carries your clubs and tees up the ball for you. All you have to do is hit the ball (or decide not to).

As an example, EasilyDo reads your friends' Facebook posts and can tell the difference between good, bad and indifferent news. Let's say a friend announces that he was promoted at work. EasilyDo recognizes the nature of the post, notifies you and tees up a "Congratulations!" comment to the friend's post. You just have to press one button for "your" comment to be posted by "you." (You can edit the message if you want to.)

The app can do all kinds of powerful things. It can tell you when to leave your office in order to be on time for your next meeting, or remind you to pay bills based on incoming email.

This week, EasilyDo rolled out a new browser-based component in beta called EasilyDo Builder, which lets you refine and customize these "facilitated reality" actions.

You do the refining on the Web, but the iPhone app performs the actions.

The new EasilyDo Builder reminds me of IFTTT, since it lets you glue together apps and services with commands to take action.

EasilyDo is more limited in scope than IFTTT, but nontechnical users will find it a lot easier to use and manage.

The founders of EasilyDo told me recently that they intend to add "agency" to the app; it will be able to order flowers and make restaurant reservations to save your bacon on Valentine's Day -- that kind of thing. (The app already has a credit card field so it can pay for things on your behalf.)

EasilyDo recently announced a commitment to add a new capability every week. (The most recent is that you can use search criteria to selectively add incoming emails to Evernote.)


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