How this startup knows who’s in your meeting, what they’re saying and whether it matters

In the business world, the voice is a powerful thing. In meeting rooms, offices and conference calls, it’s how ideas are generated, mandates given and gauntlets thrown down. Yet, somehow, the record of all these discussions doesn’t quite do them justice: messy handwritten (and probably incomplete) notes, typed meeting minutes that don’t distinguish idle chatter from meaningful business or, worse, no record at all. Thanks to advances taking place in computing and machine learning, that’s all about change.

Take, for example, a startup called Gridspace that wants to make meetings more productive by outsourcing note-taking to a machine. It’s a challenging problem to solve — any solution must provide a seamless experience, as well as be accurate — but the company is trying to do it right. It has built product that bundles smart hardware and applications with several flavors of speech recognition, voice recognition and natural language processing.

The most noticeable piece of the puzzle is the hardware — a simple, small recording device called the Memo M1 that sits on a desk or table. It’s always on, although its ambient light and motion sensors let it kick in only when someone is actually in the room. It has radio sensors to help determine who’s in the room based on their mobile phone fingerprints, although voice recognition helps makes this more accurate as does pre-planning the meeting using the Memo app and listing the participants.

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