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Computing

Another Windows 11 Bug Is Slowing Down Workflows

There’s yet another bug in Windows 11 that might end up slowing down your workflows. This time around, you might experience a bit of a delay when triggering the context menus in the Windows 11 File Explorer.

Though Microsoft intends for the new File Explorer context menus to give you faster access to copying, pasting, and renaming files, Windows reports that the performance of the menus is actually slower. Some Windows 11 users need to wait for as long as two seconds to open up when right-clicking to summon the context menu.

This is confirmed by many users who are complaining by filing feedback in the Windows 11 Feedback Hub. A search for “context menu delay” returns over seven different results of people detailing the issue. The feedback was filed from as most recently as a month ago to as far back as three months ago.

“When you right-click the desktop or File Explorer in Windows 11, the context menu appears very slowly,” wrote one user in a Feedback thread with 267 upvotes. “After I upgrade[d] my Windows 10 to Windows 11, I notice[d] that [the] context menu [had] few seconds delays,” wrote another user.

In most of these Feedback threads, people seem to be using low-end PCs. Yet, Microsoft indicated that “we’ve got this feedback” to confirm that it is looking into the issue.

In fact, Windows 11 Build 22478, which is being tested in the Windows Insider Program, appears to address the issue. In the changelog, Microsoft mentioned that the command bar was doing unnecessary calculations when navigating folders. It also detailed several bug fixes for the explorer.exe process, which is associated with File Explorer. However, this build is still in beta testing, and it could be a while before everyone sees a fix.

Windows 11 might bring new features like snap layouts and widgets, but it also has had its fair share of bugs. In one instance, there are thousands of empty folders in subsystem folders. In another, there was a memory leak issue that impacted the File Explorer. There even was a since-fixed bug that impacted AMD CPUs, where users could see a 15% drop in performance when gaming.

You can factor these issues into your decision about if it’s worth upgrading to Windows 11. The new operating system is still in the process of rolling out, and Microsoft hopes everyone on compatible PCs should have it by 2022.

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AI

Automated workflows gained traction during the pandemic

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The pandemic has spurred an increase in the use of automation, with a third of enterprises reporting they have employed automated processes in five or more departments during the past year — up from 15% in 2020. That’s according to Workato’s inaugural Work Automation Index, which was released today and drew on nearly 700 mid-sized to large enterprises using Workato’s workflow automation platform.

“Enterprise automation experienced a rapid surge in adoption this past year — no surprise, as business leaders closely examined where they could be more efficient in their operations and support remote teams amid a global pandemic,” Workato CIO Carter Busse said in a press release.

The Work Automation Index, which looked at enterprises with between $50 million and over $2 billion in revenue from April 2019 to March 2021, found “pronounced” automation expansion in specific lines of business. For example, customer support automation saw the biggest uptick of any department (over 290% year-over-year), with automation of return and refund processing experiencing 476% growth from the pre-pandemic period.

During the pandemic, enterprises turned to automation to scale up their operations while freeing customer service reps to handle challenging workloads. According to Canam Research, 78% of contact centers in the U.S. now intend to deploy AI in the next three years. And research from The Harris Poll indicates that 46% of customer interactions are already automated, with the number expected to reach 59% by 2023.

Chatbot usage in particular exploded during the pandemic as organizations looked to bridge gaps in customer service and onboarding. In 2020, the chatbot market was valued at $17.17 billion, and it is projected to reach $102.29 billion by 2026, according to Mordor Intelligence. There was also a 67% increase in chatbot usage between 2018 and 2020. And Gartner predicts that by 2022, 70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as chatbots — an increase of 15% from 2018.

Automation growth

Finance automation was another growing priority for enterprises over the past year, Workato found, with the volume of automated processes across the finance sector increasing by 199% — almost threefold. At the same time, data pipeline automation — i.e., automation of pipelines connecting business apps with cloud data warehouses — surged by 152% as companies embraced digital transformation. But recruitment saw the highest automation expansion of any single process at 547%, reflecting the digital shift of employee hiring, onboarding, and offboarding.

Security and compliance automation grew by 171%, meanwhile, reflecting the broader industry trend. Known as an autonomous response, defensive AI-powered security automation can interrupt attacks without affecting day-to-day business. According to a recent Darktrace report, 44% of executives are assessing AI-enabled security systems and 38% are deploying autonomous response technology. In a 2019 analysis, Statista reported that around 80% of executives in the telecommunications industry believe their organization wouldn’t be able to respond to cyberattacks without AI.

Overall, the Workato report reinforced the notion that the number of industries automation touches is still growing. A Deloitte report predicts the technology will achieve “near-universal adoption” within five years. And Gartner estimates that organizations can lower operational costs 30% by combining automation technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) with redesigned operational processes by 2024.

“Automation was a key driver in departments we anticipated, like IT and finance, but also provided increased capabilities in areas we didn’t expect, such as recruitment and customer success,” Busse continued. “From boosting employee productivity to creating better customer experiences, automation freed businesses and teams to focus on the priorities that mattered most at an incredibly uncertain time in the market.”

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AI

Orum raises $25M to automate outbound sales workflows

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Sales support platform Orum today announced that it closed a $25 million series A funding round led by Craft Ventures, with participation from several existing backers. The funding brings the company’s total raised to $29 million at a $125 million valuation, and cofounder and CEO Jason Dorfman says the round will be put toward general expansion, mostly focused on product, customer service, and international market expansion.

Live conversation is arguably the cornerstone of sales development. According to a HubSpot survey, 20% of customers want to talk during the decision stage, once they’ve chosen a product to buy. Companies are often forced to hire teams of salespeople to create the activity required to hit their pipeline goals, but these entry-level roles can be inefficient and ineffective. Conversion rates for cold calls are typically about 2%, compared with 20% for solid leads and 50% for referrals.

New York-based Orum was founded in 2019 by Dorfman and Karthik Viswanathan. Dorfman was the first sales hire at Rubrik, where he built out their growing corporate sales team. He decided to start Orum out of frustration with existing sales tools, which he thought were too focused on tracking reps rather than boosting their activity. His reps were making 100 calls a day each, but only a handful of prospects were picking up.

Orum

“Companies leverage Orum to expand their level of sales activity without necessarily expanding their headcount. Reps can focus on hosting quality conversations with prospective customers rather than doing the hard and repetitive work required to get ahold of a prospect,” Dorfman told VentureBeat via email. “Initially, we saw a drop in business as everyone froze their budgets [during the pandemic]. Shortly thereafter, by June 2020, we saw an explosion of new business as companies digitally transformed their business.”

AI-powered call automation

An average sales development rep has 25 to 50 activities per day, and only 22% of opportunities end up as closed business. Despite the low conversion rate, 88% of account-based marketers cite outbound sales development reps as one of the most effective sales channel tactics.

Orum acts like an engine that drives sales stacks, integrating with and drawing data from existing enablement platforms like Salesforce, SalesLoft, or Outreach. It provides full contact details, notes, and campaign information to reps, using AI to determine the difference between human voices, voicemails, and dial-by-name directories.

Managers can listen to transcribed calls within Orum to help reps improve where needed. Moreover, they can search and filter for calls by disposition and type, optionally sharing recordings for training purposes.

Orum’s system processes more than 2 million calls per month and uses that data to retrain its machine learning algorithms, automatically filtering out bad numbers and navigating phone directories. By eliminating the need for salespeople to do this, Dorfman claims that Orum effectively automates half the daily work of sales reps, resulting in savings across organizations.

“Companies [using Orum] see a 10 times boost in activity, 5 times boost in pipeline, leading to 2 times revenue,” Dorfman said. “Orum is building tooling to help sales development rep teams operate remotely in a ‘virtual sales floor.’”Orum

In the $339.4 billion global contact center market, Orum has competition in Connect and Sell, Connect Leader, Xant, the recently acquired Five9, and incumbents like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. But Dorfman says that Orum has powered more than 100,000 live customer conversations to date across over 100 customers and 1,000 users, reflecting its momentum.

During its seed-stage funding in 2020, Orum released a free version of its technology and the ability to automatically navigate dial-by-name directories. Dorfman partially attributes the 290% increase in enterprise customers that Orum saw over the past year to this, as well as the sales industry’s embrace of automation.

During the pandemic, enterprises indeed turned to automation to scale up their operations while freeing customer service reps to handle challenging workloads. According to Canam Research, 78% of contact centers in the U.S. now intend to deploy AI in the next 3 years. And research from The Harris Poll indicates that 46% of customer interactions are already automated, with the number expected to reach 59% by 2023.

“We’ve reached $4.5 million in annual recurring revenue and expect to be at $10 million by the end of the year,” Dorfman said when asked about Orum’s growth trajectory. “We also plan to increase the size of our workforce from 27 employees now to over 50.”

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AI

Cupix digital twin plugs into Autodesk BIM 360 for 3D builder workflows

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Construction digital twins pioneer Cupix today announced an integration with Autodesk’s BIM 360 construction management platform. This is intended to streamline construction workflows that weave up-to-date information about the construction process into Autodesk planning tools.

Cupix’s move builds on a prior integration into the Autodesk PlanGrid platform for construction planning. For the vendor and its customers alike, such integrations with the Autodesk environment are a key to bringing digital twins to wider markets. As a mainstay provider of tools for organizing architectural, engineering, and construction management processes, Autodesk will likely influence uptake of digital twins in these key sectors.

“We believe the 3D digital twin platform will come to be seen as a new IT pillar — in the same way ERP, BIM, CRM, and groupware are relied on to improve corporate-wide productivity,” Cupix CEO and Founder Simon Bae told VentureBeat.

He said Cupix’s goal is to simplify the process of capturing real-time data about construction progress using low-cost cameras. This allows remote contractors, managers, owners, and architects to virtually walk through job sites, create new requests for information (RFIs), and assign them based on what they see and learn in the virtual walkthrough.

Streamlining digital twin workflows

Cupix’s special sauce lies in reducing the time, cost, and effort needed to capture up-to-date spatial data in a 3D digital twin for construction. This complements other tools that generate 3D walkthroughs from drawings.

“To date, construction remains largely a 2D industry and one that hungers for technological innovation,” Bae said. “We believe 3D digital twin technology, and CupixWorks in particular, is a game-changer for customers.”

Importantly, Cupix allows non-technical users to capture a 3D representation of a job site using a consumer-grade 360-degree camera, rather than high-end cameras or lidar, components that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. With the Cupix approach, teams can update scans daily rather than waiting days or weeks for a fresh scan.

Benefits go beyond the act of data capture because traditional 3D scan data eats up a lot of bytes.

“You can easily end up with several gigabytes of data after scanning just 10,000 square feet of space,” Bae said. Cupix has focused on reducing data requirements while preserving enough fidelity for everyday use cases, he indicated.

Cupix has particularly focused on improving user experience and workflows in the construction industry. Bae argues that other 3D scanning platforms, such as Matterport, focus on wider sectors, with different requirements. Although they may provide high-resolution imagery at a low price, it can be time-consuming to complete regular 3D scans of an actual job site, making them less useful when it comes to frequently capturing data on job site views during construction, Bae maintains.

“We believe that the Cupix approach will deliver to customers the collaboration, confidence, and control they need to stay on time, on budget, and on target,” Bae said. That is important if digital twin technology is going to fulfill its promise of bringing digital transformation to construction.

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AI

Amazon launches reinforcement learning tools to manage robots’ workflows

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Amazon today launched SageMaker Reinforcement Learning (RL) Kubeflow Components, a toolkit supporting the company’s AWS RoboMaker service for orchestrating robotics workflows. Amazon says that the goal is to make it faster to experiment and manage robotics workloads from perception to controls and optimization, and to create end-to-end solutions without having to rebuild them each time.

Robots are being used more widely for purposes that are increasing in sophistication, like assembly, picking and packing, last-mile delivery, environmental monitoring, search and rescue, and assisted surgery. In China, Oxford Economics anticipates 12.5 million manufacturing jobs will become automated, while in the U.S., McKinsey projects that machines will take upwards of 30% of such jobs. As for reinforcement learning, it’s an emerging AI technique that can help develop solutions for the kinds of problems that are increasingly cropping up in robotics.

SageMaker RL builds on top of Amazon’s SageMaker machine learning service, adding prepackaged toolkits designed to integrate with simulation environments. With Amazon SageMaker RL Components for Kubernetes, customers can use SageMaker RL Components in their pipelines to invoke and parallelize SageMaker training jobs and RoboMaker simulation jobs as steps in their reinforcement learning training workflow without having to worry about how it runs under the hood, according to Amazon.

Amazon AWS RoboMaker

Above: Ripley, Woodside’s robotics platform, takes advantage of reinforcement learning to perform manipulation tasks.

Image Credit: Amazon

Running the SageMaker RL Kubeflow Components requires an existing or new Kubernetes cluster. Customers also must install Kubeflow Pipelines on the cluster and set up identity and access management roles and permissions for SageMaker and RoboMaker, according to Amazon. The company provided step-by-step instructions to create the pipeline in a blog post.

Woodside Energy tapped RoboMaker with SageMaker Kubeflow operators to train, tune, and deploy reinforcement learning models to their robots to perform repetitive and dangerous manipulation tasks. The company engaged Australia-based consultancy Max Kelsen to assist in the development and contribution of the RoboMaker components. For example, Ripley, a robotics platform built by Woodside, was trained to perform a “double block and bleed,” a manual pump shutdown procedure that involves turning multiple valves in sequence. A reinforcement learning formulation created with RoboMaker and SageMaker uses joint states and camera views as inputs to a model that outputs optimal trajectories for manipulating the valves.

“Our team and our partners wanted to start exploring using machine learning methods for robotics manipulation,” Woodside robotics engineer Kyle Saltmarsh said in a press release. “Before we could do this effectively, we needed a framework that would allow us to train, test, tune, and deploy these models efficiently. Utilizing Kubeflow components and pipelines with SageMaker and RoboMaker provides us with this framework and we are excited to have our roboticists and data scientists focus their efforts and time on algorithms and implementation.”

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AI

AirSlate raises $50 million more to automate enterprise workflows

AirSlate, a workflow automation startup, today announced it raised $50 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank. The capital comes after a $40 million round in January led by Morgan Stanley and General Catalyst, and it brings the company’s total raised to $130 million.

When McKinsey surveyed 1,500 executives across industries and regions in 2018, 66% said addressing skills gaps related to automation and digitization was a “top 10” priority. According to market research firm Fact.MR, small and medium-size enterprises are expected to adopt business workflow automation at scale, creating a market opportunity of more than $1.6 billion between 2017 and 2026.

AirSlate launched its first product — a PDF editor — in 2008. In 2015, the company expanded into software integrations for customer relationship management software and apps, followed by an esignature management offering in 2017.

AirSlate’s platform lets customers automate processes using single, no-code solutions. Powered by robotic process automation technologies, AirSlate can help negotiate contracts, facilitate payments and surveys, and get documents signed electronically by generating prefilled pages, sending reminders and notifications, extracting data, and updating records.

AirSlate

AirSlate leverages rules-based bots that integrate with existing services to automate approvals, data analytics, alerts, permission assignment, and data transfer. Customers can’t create bots, but they’re able to request bots for specific tasks from the AirSlate team, with a turnaround time of about a week.

For companies in need of a fully managed offering, there’s AirSlate Business Cloud, which spans PDF editing, esignature workflows, and document process automation. Business Cloud subscribers can author new (or edit existing) PDF documents, create and manage workflows, assign roles, and send out documents for esigning. They also gain access to an online library of over 85,000 state-specific legal forms, including nondisclosure agreements, real estate forms, wills, and customer contracts.

AirSlate counts over 25 million users across over 700,000 customers like the Australian government, Xerox, CBS Sports, GoFundMe, and Amgen. This year, the company expects annual recurring revenue to surpass $100 million.

“In this increasingly remote-work first environment, we are seeing accelerating demand for solutions that empower businesses to design and implement beautiful, personalized, secure, and digitally executable customer and employee experiences,” CEO Borya Shakhnovich said in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with Silicon Valley Bank to help in fueling our continued product innovation, building out our team, and expanding our global footprint. We believe that airSlate is well positioned to become a global leader in the business process automation, e-signature, and document management markets.”

The Boston, Massachusetts-based AirSlate has around 825 employees. A portion of the debt raise will be put toward hiring, the company says.

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