How Meghan Joyce and Duckbill Unlocked Life Efficiency with AI and Human Collaboration

24 Jun 2024

Meghan Verena Joyce, the CEO of Duckbill, is on a mission transforming personal assistance by encouraging people to “duck it,” by seamlessly integrating AI technology with human expertise. With a background rooted in technology and operations at industry giants like Uber and Oscar Health, Meghan witnessed the persistent struggles of balancing professional and personal responsibilities. This experience inspired her to create Duckbill, a service designed to alleviate the daily burdens of life admin tasks, making personal assistance accessible and affordable for everyone. Meghan's vision was clear: to address the limitations of pure technology solutions and provide a reliable, hybrid model that combines AI-driven efficiency with human oversight.

What inspired you to start Duckbill, and how did your background influence the development of the hybrid AI model?

The inspiration for Duckbill came from witnessing firsthand the struggles of balancing professional responsibilities with personal life, especially for dual working and single working people with both jobs and personal obligations in the mix. My background in technology and operations at companies like Uber and Oscar Health provided me with a deep understanding of the potential of technology to solve real-world problems. However, I also recognized the limitations of pure technology solutions. We believe that AI and AI agents are similar to early autonomous vehicles - great in a controlled environment, but not yet capable of dealing with the long tail of real-world edge cases. This led to the development of our hybrid model, which combines AI-driven efficiency with human oversight to ensure reliability and trust. Our goal was to create a service that alleviates the burden of daily tasks, making personal assistance accessible and affordable for everyone.

Can you explain how Duckbill’s hybrid AI and human collaboration model works in practice?

Duckbill’s hybrid model leverages the strengths of both AI and human expertise. The AI component executes as much as possible on tasks, getting them as close to the finish line as possible. It may even guide the user to provide all necessary information. However, there is always a human on call for final execution, accuracy, and quality. This approach allows us to manage a wide range of tasks efficiently while maintaining a high level of service reliability. For example, AI might schedule appointments and send reminders, while a human assistant handles more detailed tasks like organizing travel plans or dealing with customer service issues. In the future, we aim for AI to fully execute some tasks, but for now, the balance between AI and human input is key.

What challenges did you face when integrating AI with human assistance, and how did you overcome them?

Integrating AI with human assistance presented several challenges. One major challenge was how to super-power our human copilots with AI, ensuring they had the best tools and information at their fingertips. We also had to train the AI to gather and reference all necessary information for task completion at the time of submission. Ensuring quality and consistency with human assistance output in real-time was another significant hurdle. We addressed these challenges by developing sophisticated algorithms that recognize the complexity of a task and route it appropriately, and by implementing rigorous training programs for our human assistants. Continuous refinement of our AI’s learning algorithms based on feedback has been crucial in maintaining service quality.

How does Duckbill differentiate itself from other AI-driven personal assistants on the market?

Duckbill differentiates itself through its unique ability to anticipate your needs before they arise, and to execute reliably on life tasks and operate as an extension of our members. While other AI assistants can summarize or research, they don’t relieve the cognitive load of anticipating what you’ll need and serving those items up for you on the ideal timeframe - nor can they execute tasks like scheduling, filling out forms, calling, negotiating, or ordering.

The burden of life admin is felt by everyone, and Duckbill has figured out how to democratize access to personal assistant services through both AI and real expert humans. This comprehensive solution goes beyond what traditional AI assistants offer, making personal assistance a necessity rather than a luxury.

Can you share some success stories or feedback from users who have benefited from Duckbill’s services?

Absolutely! We’ve received numerous positive testimonials from our users. One of our users, a working mother, shared how Duckbill has significantly reduced her daily stress by putting all of her recurring life events - birthdays, anniversaries, groceries, home and beauty purchases, doctor’s and self-care appointments - on autopilot. These items are now anticipated and executed for her proactively. Another user, a busy executive, praised Duckbill for efficiently tackling customer service issues - waiting on hold to resolve returns, warranties, product issues, and refunds - and handling all hard-to-find prescription refills, allowing him to focus more on his work. These stories highlight how Duckbill’s services have made a tangible difference in our users' lives, providing them with valuable time and peace of mind.

What are your future plans for Duckbill, and how do you see the role of AI evolving in personal assistance?

Our future plans for Duckbill involve expanding our capabilities and further refining our hybrid model. We aim to integrate more advanced AI technologies to enhance our service offerings and increase efficiency. We’re also exploring new markets and expanding our user base to include more diverse demographics. As for the role of AI in personal assistance, I believe it will continue to grow and evolve, becoming more intuitive and integrated into our daily lives. The key will be maintaining a balance between automation and human touch to ensure personalized and reliable service. Duckbill will continue to innovate and lead in this space, setting new standards for AI-driven personal assistance

Duckbill is a personal assistant platform for everyone to tackle the most dreaded everyday tasks by anticipating needs, surfacing results personally catered to member tastes and preferences, and executing on their behalf. By combining expert humans plus AI, Duckbill offers a service that gives real people real help.