AI @ Microsoft, Robotics @ Rewired


A.R.O. Inc. / Saga


How Saga helped reunite a special gal with her pony. Created by Paul Hutzler, Grantley Rushing, and Todd Tibbetts.

Choose your own adventure

A.R.O. Inc. (2011 - 2014) was a startup that I co-founded with Paul Allen in Seattle. We developed software that produced insights about customers' offline behavior from sensor data captured by their mobile phones. Our flagship app, Saga, was a lifelogging tool that more than 5 million people downloaded. You can read more about what people said about Saga here

A.R.O. grew out of our belief that context was going to change how we interacted with our smartphones.

Today, assistants can perform a small set of tasks, each saving us a few precious steps along the way. In the future, assistants will be capable of doing more and more non-trivial things. We’re soon going to have a whole posse of specialized software agents on our side that understand us, our preferences, and the current pickle we're in right now.

Sure, software will get "smarter" -- but many of us still believe that context is the key to making assistants truly valuable. In fact, I’d argue that the ultimate use case for assistants, however, is a much more basic one: it’s helping me make the most of my life before I run out of time.

One school of thought says that assistants should be all about delegation. I pass tasks downstream, and in doing so, I reclaim my time and energy. I think that several companies will achieve big things doing just that.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. What about an assistant that doesn’t take things off my plate — but rather, wants to put things on it? What about an assistant that guides me down paths less traveled? What about an assistant that aspires to help me be a better version of myself?

We didn't quite get there with Saga -- or any of the other apps we built at A.R.O.; the company closed in the summer of 2014. But the future is really bright:  I'm excited about the next generation of virtual personal assistants, from Alexa to Viv and everything in between.


A Trucker's Saga: Lifelogging a Journey. Created by Paul Hutzler and Todd Tibbetts.

Andy Hickl (ARO/Saga) discusses the role of context in personal data systems at the 2014 Quantified Self Public Health Symposium.