Action Cat! A new experiment around bots, video calls, voice, and spreadsheets

13.08, Thursday 15 Dec 2022

If you have any calls on Zoom or Google Meet today, we just launched a voice-enabled bot to track reminders, and you can try it right now.

TWIST: it transcribes to a shared Google Sheet so you can change what keyword you’re searching for during the call, or see in realtime who has asked the most questions, or add your own formulas.

Here’s the project page.

Reduct Action Cat: a hackable voice-enabled call bot.

Launch the bot from there.

There’s background thinking + links to influences at the bottom.

There will be bugs and trip hazards I’m sure - Action Cat is an experiment - but the realtime spreadsheet makes it work for me in a way that less flexible transcripts don’t, and I love using it. It should be built into all video call products.

So Action Cat is a new collab with the team at Reduct: a collaborative transcript-based video platform where everyone can review, search, highlight and edit video, as easily as text.

It started as an exploration (what would happen if meeting actions dropped into a shareable, editable spreadsheet?) – but as we chatted and tried the in-development bot, interesting feedback loops appeared.

You find yourself changing the remind me keyword to dig back through the conversation, or even in the last 5 minutes of the meeting searching ? to see if everyone’s questions have been answered (the transcription AI picks up queries).

Or writing a new function to add up durations to reveal who has been dominating the call…

All of that is in the Google Sheets template, and the spreadsheet belongs to you after the call so you can parse the transcript however you want.

ALSO! This is a new way of working for me. I’m grateful to the Reduct team, specifically Robert Ochshorn and Ned Burnell, for being up for experimenting with weird interfaces on a real, established platform.

Reduct is much deeper and technologically deft than Action Cat reveals. It has been a joy to find a team so engaged in probing the possibilities of interaction on top of building out their core product.

I’d be up for other collabs in the future so please do get in touch if you’ve got some intriguing tech to play with.

I wrote two speculations, earlier this week, sparked specifically by this collab, and I wouldn’t have been able to write them without it:

My takeaway here is to be reminded of the value of thinking through making.

There are ideas I can access, really concretely, and speculative leaps I can make only once I have been through the loop of making and experiencing with real material.

And also now I have an actual thing I can use to explore these abstract ideas further.

Anyway. It’s nice to launch something. Ta da etc.

Please do try Reduct Action Cat and share it with your friends and colleagues.

Do weird things!

Let me know what you invent.

Follow-up posts:

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it by email or on social media. Here’s the link. Thanks, —Matt.