Empathy Aibased 13mlundentechcrunch: Tucked away on the top floor of an office building in Downtown Boston, a team of engineers is working to change death itself. Empathy, an Ai-based digital assistant that helps families organize affairs after a death, has just emerged from stealth with $13 million in funding.
Empathy takes care of emotional work and family logistics after a death by giving families easy access to important information and responding to their needs and preferences 24/7. Currently in beta at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Empathy will be commercially available in or shortly after 2018.
“The whole point of Empathy is to make what should be a challenging time much easier for families,” said Mo Gawdat, CEO and founder of X.ai and creator of Empathy.
Empathy lives on a platform called Speak, which allows users to communicate with Ai using natural language via text or voice. Users can also access it via Slack or Facebook Messenger.
To use the service, family members sign up for an account on the platform, fill out a short questionnaire about the deceased, and direct Empathy to forward all emails addressed to the deceased. (Think of it as training a mail filter.) Empathy then triages emails to determine if they’re relevant and sends them over to users. For example, if there’s a message about car insurance payment due dates, Empathy will send that note over to the deceased’s son or daughter.
“When Empathy receives an email from the deceased, it marks it as spam, forwards it, and then marks it again as unimportant,” said Gawdat. “But there’s no need to ever see that email again.”
Empathy is so effective at removing task-related emails from family members’ inboxes that Gawdat said that the service has saved his company 10 million hours of work in just two years.
“I only sleep maybe 4 hours a night, but I work around the clock,” said Gawdat. “Empathy’s really saved us.”
The Empathy team includes Gawdat, Chief Product Officer Matt Walker and 13 engineers who worked on the project in stealth for two years before announcing it to the public this week.
The company posted a video with all of its 10-second pitch, complete with robotic voice and all.
Empathy was formed in 2015 and reported to have raised about $2.5 million from investors before it launched, with another $4.5 million in funding since then, according to Gawdat. Along with MIT, the company has also raised money from Lux Capital, Y Combinator, 500 Startups and others.
The company’s advisers include former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz and the former CEO of Intuit Steve Bennett.