Amazon’s CTO built a meeting-summarizing app for some reason

4 Min Read

How does Amazon CTO Werner Vogels — a person value untold hundreds of thousands, who in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic outright purchased the small Central Amsterdam Airbnb he’d been residing in — spend his days? From the appears of it: constructing AI-powered meeting-summarizing apps. Go determine.

In a post this week on Vogels’ private weblog, he particulars Distill, an open supply app he constructed along with his “OCTO” (Workplace of the CTO) staff to transcribe and summarize their convention calls. Distill takes an audio recording of a gathering (in codecs like MP3, FLAC and WAV), analyzes it, and generates a abstract together with a listing of to-do objects. It could possibly optionally spit out that abstract and listing to platforms equivalent to Slack by way of customized integrations. 

An instance abstract from Vogel’s Distill assembly summarizer, powered by Amazon tech.
Picture Credit: Distill

As one may count on of an app from Amazon’s CTO, Distill depends conspicuously on paid Amazon services and products to do the computational heavy lifting. AWS Transcribe carries out Distill’s transcription; Amazon S3 offers storage for the assembly audio recordsdata; and Bedrock, Amazon’s generative AI growth suite, handles summarization.

However why create a gathering summarizer when there are numerous instruments on the market that might fulfill the aim? Nicely, I’ve to think about that Vogels thought, why not? He has tons of sources at his disposal and seemingly sufficient spare time for hobbyist programming initiatives. Per the weblog, he’s already attempting his hand at porting Distill’s codebase from Python to Rust. (Being the CTO is good work if you will get it.)

One distinctive factor about Distill is that it lets you choose which AI mannequin performs the assembly summarizing. By default, it’s Sonnet, a midrange mannequin in Anthropic’s Claude 3 household. (Amazon’s massive stake in Anthropic may’ve had one thing to do with that design resolution.) However any mannequin hosted in Bedrock will work, like Meta’s Llama 3 and fashions from AI startups Mistral, AI21 Labs and Cohere. 

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Vogels doesn’t promise that Distill received’t make errors. 

“Keep in mind, AI just isn’t excellent,” he writes. “A number of the summaries we get again … have errors that want guide adjustment. However that’s OK, as a result of it nonetheless accelerates our processes. It’s merely a reminder that we should nonetheless be discerning and concerned within the course of. Essential pondering is as essential now because it has ever been.”

I’d argue that having to be “concerned” in summarizing form of defeats the purpose of an computerized summarizer. You may as nicely rent a stenographer. However you’ll by no means catch Vogels badmouthing the tech his employer’s promoting. And that, I’d wager to say, is why he’s nonetheless CTO. 

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