Amazon's CTO built a meeting-summarizing app for some reason | TechCrunch

Amazon's CTO built a meeting-summarizing app for some reason | TechCrunch

How does Amazon CTO Werner Vogels — a man worth millions, who bought the small central Amsterdam Airbnb he was staying in during the COVID-19 pandemic — spend his days? From the looks of it: Building AI-powered meeting summarizing apps. get in shape.

In a ___ Post On the Vogels' personal blog this week, they distilled, a open source The app he built with his “OCTO” (Office of the CTO) team to transcribe and summarize their conference calls. Distal takes the audio recording of the meeting (in formats such as MP3, FLAC and WAV), analyzes it, and produces a summary with a list of actionable items. It can optionally spit out this summary and list it on a platform like Slack through custom integrations.

An example summary from Vogel's Distal Meeting Summarizer powered by Amazon Tech.
Image credit: to distill

As one might expect of an app from Amazon's CTO, Distal clearly relies on paid Amazon products and services to do the computational heavy lifting. AWS Transcribe simulates Distal. Amazon S3 provides storage for meeting audio files. And Bedrock, Amazon's generative AI development suite, handles abstraction.

But why create a meeting summarizer when there are countless tools out there that serve the purpose? Well, I have to imagine the Vogels thought, why not? He has a lot of resources and apparently a lot of spare time for hobby programming projects. According to the blog, he's already trying his hand at porting Distill's codebase from Python to Rust. (Being a CTO is a good job if you can get it.)

One of the unique things about Distill is that it lets you choose which AI model summarizes the meeting. By default, it's the Sonnet, the mid-range model in Anthropic's Claud 3 family. (Amazon's large stake in Anthropic may have had something to do with this design decision.) But any model hosted in Bedrock will work, such as Meta's Llama 3 and AI startups Mistral, AI21 Labs and Cohere. The model of

Vogels does not promise that Distill will not make mistakes.

“Remember, AI is not perfect,” he writes. “Some of the summaries we get back … have errors that require manual adjustments. But that's okay, because it still speeds up our process. It's just a reminder that we still need to be sane and Be involved in the process. Critical thinking is as important now as ever.”

I would argue that being “involved” in summarizing defeats the point of an automatic summarizer. You can also hire a stenographer. But you'll never catch Vogels ranting about his employer's sales technology. And that, I'd like to say, is why he's still the CTO.


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