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A new AI from Microsoft automatically generates to-do lists based on sent emails. Researchers from the University of Washington and Microsoft’s AI team announced the tool in a pre-print research paper.

The Smart To-Do tool uses AI to scan all outgoing emails for usable text, then converts these tasks into an automatically generated to-do list. Suppose you send an email to a customer saying that you will send a draft on Tuesday afternoon. The AI scans the email, registers the task and puts this task on the list with, for example, the title ‘send a concept to customer’, together with the time, in this case, Tuesday afternoon. In this way, the tool scans all emails and updates the list continuously.

The researchers had to build the system from scratch as there is no comparable AI system. This meant that Microsoft had to develop everything from the task parameters to the datasets on which the deep neural networks were trained. If the new tool were to work well in practice, this would save a lot of work for employees. They will then be able to keep answering emails instead of making to-do lists.

Pre-print paper

The new feature was unveiled in a pre-print research paper published on arXiv. “In this work, we introduce the task of automatically generating To-Do items from email context and meta-data to help users follow up on their promised actions (also referred to as commitments) We want to generate a short and concise To-Do item for the task mentioned in the email”.

According to Microsoft, the team will present the Smart To-Do tool at the ACL 2020 conference in July.