What is Conversational UI

So what is Conversational UI? Historically interfaces or UI has been made up of visual elements: buttons, dropdown lists, date pickers, carousels. Now we have the technology to provide conversational ones as well via voice or text-enabled interfaces such as Amazon Echo or Facebook Messenger. Some applications also leverage the best of both worlds, combining traditional UI elements with conversational capability: for example Facebook Messenger.

The most important advancement in Conversational UI has been Natural Language Processing (NLP). This is the field of computing that deals with deciphering the exact words that a user and parsing out of it their actual intent and in what context. You can read about some of the terminologies here. If the bot is the interface, NLP is the brain behind its conversational ability.

Natural Conversational Experiences

The Bot Forge creates natural conversational experiences for voice and text-based applications leveraging the latest AI technology.

Our team is made up of natural language processing (NLP) and Natural language understanding (NLU) experts, artificial intelligence specialists, conversational architects, project managers, and interaction designers. Focused on forging engaging voice and text-based Conversational UI powered by NLP.

Our conversational interfaces can be deployed on websites, mobile applications, messaging applications and voice-enabled devices.

We use the most advanced machine learning technology to power our solutions so that recognising user intent and context works reliably and seamlessly. Our goal is to create awesome conversational experiences.

Dialogflow Announce v1 API will be deprecated in October 2019

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The Dialogflow team announced that they would be deprecating their V1 version of the Dialogflow api in Oct 2019

You can read about their official announcement here

The Bot Forge have been following the progress of the latest V2 api since its official launch in April this year, it’s no surprise that the Dialogflow team have made this announcement as they concentrate their efforts on the new API. However it does have some serious implications for existing chatbots utilising the v1 API.

Migration

You can see some more details about upgrading from V1 to V2 in the official guide here. We also aim to provide some more detailed information about carrying out an upgrade on this blog so watch out for that.

Anyone who already has built out their website chatbots using v1 API, then they should start planning for the migration sooner rather than later. Any new features should be added after the upgrade. The migration is potentially a non-trivial task, considering some chatbots have some fairly complex code driving their fulfilment. If you have a live bot in production our advice is to set up an upgrade chatbot as a copy of your existing bot project and then work through the upgrade there. You can guarantee that changing to V2 will mean that fulfilment and API calls may stop working. Once the upgrade is complete re-testing all bot functionality is strongly advised before setting live.

Chatbot Web Interfaces

We would recommend everyone who is creating custom website chatbots to do so using the v2 API. All our new chatbots are built using the v2API.

The big change for v2 is that it uses Google’s OAuth2 for its authentication, with v1 you could simply use the client access token when calling the v1 API. Implementing the features required to authenticate against the new v2 API means some significant extra development effort.

If you need assistance or advice with your own chatbot v2 upgrade please get in touch, we are Dialogflow experts and would be happy to help!

 

 

 

 

At the Bot Forge, we specialise in building chatbots so you feel free to contact us if you want to discuss further.

Why using chatbots for business can help you remain competitive

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Chatbots For Business

The business landscape is evolving faster and faster, we look at using chatbots for business to help you remain competitive.

There is so much coverage of artificial intelligence technology and chatbots these days  There is no doubt that chatbots are big news for many different industries, from e-commerce and fashion to healthcare and banking.

Whilst many big brands have already jumped at the opportunity to leverage the technology for others it’s challenging to see where they can be a benefit to your company and whether the cost and effort involved is worthwhile. Some of you may remember many years ago when you were approached by someone selling a shiny website and then later on a new app? You probably asked yourself a similar set of questions..that’s nice and shiny but why do I want it? is it right for us? First things first let’s look at some of the basics.

Chatbots for business - what is a chatbot

The chatbot lowdown

What is a chatbot?

Briefly put a chatbot is a service, powered by natural language processing rules and artificial intelligence (AI), that you interact with via a voice or text-based chat interface. AI technology is used to enable the service to respond to specific user interaction. For example, a user could ask a chatbot a question or give it an instruction and the bot could respond or perform an action as appropriate.

This chat service can take on any number of roles, providing answers, collecting customer information, suggesting products and making sales. They can live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Skype, SMS, Slack, Telegram, Viber, Twitter, Website). They can also be deployed into voice-enabled assistants such as Amazon Echo or Google home. Chatbots can also be developed to include multiple language capability.

Where can a chatbot be used?

Chatbots have been deployed in many different guises as they are extremely flexible and able to take on whatever business need arises.

You could say the possibilities are endless, here are some examples:

 

CelebrityChatbots for business : celebrity

www.m.me/katyperry
Katy Perry’s official Facebook Messenger bot.

Customer Service
Chatbots for business : customer support

Vodafone TOBi
Vodafone’s customer service chatbot is based on IBM’s Watson & provides a fully integrated webchat for customers.

ProductivityChatbots for business : Productivity

AceBot
https://slack.com/apps/A0GRU84TF-ace
AceBot a productivity tool with expense tracking & intelligent task management, deployed in Slack.

Sports and Events
Chatbots for business : sports

www.m.me/fredwhittonchallenge
The Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge sportive bot is a smart events assistant providing event info to participants.

E-CommerceChatbots for business : e-commerce

www.m.me/LEGO
The official Lego Facebook Messenger bot. Ready to help your next LEGO purchase.

Health
Chatbots for business : healthcare

www.m.me/superizzyai
Izzy is a period tracking and pill reminder chatbot.

Chatbots for business

The benefits of using chatbots for your business

Provide stellar customer service 24/7

For many businesses, the biggest challenge to serving your customers in several communication channels is responding quickly all of the time.

Constantly available

One of the great benefits of a chatbot is the constant availability. Customer expectations are high expecting a quick response to enquiries. With a chatbot, you can offer your customers a service which is available 24 hours a day even when there are no employees in the office. You can rely on your bot no matter what time of the day or day of the week or timezone the enquiry is coming from.

One example from my own personal experience was with a SAAS which had charged me incorrectly for an amount of money which caused my bank account to go overdrawn. I contacted the customer support chatbot via a web interface at 1 AM and the problem was rectified and money returned promptly the next day. I went from disgruntled to a satisfied customer in a 5-minute chatbot interaction, incidentally, I’m still a customer!

It’s also worth noting that chatbots can be enabled to understand multiple languages. NLP technology will understand queries in different languages and respond appropriately. So if you support a global customer base needing to support multiple language enquiries this does not have to be a problem.

System integration

With the correct integration development, a chatbot is able to answer complex enquiries by integrating with existing CRM, ERP, CMS, and other business-critical applications.
Connect your chatbot seamlessly with your entire business ecosystem.

Scalable

Chatbots are scalable and capable of handling multiple enquiries, ready to step up when enquiry demands are at their peak.

A well implemented and executed chatbot can give businesses the ability to have more conversations and help more people at once than other alternatives, for example, live chat applications on websites.

This ability to handle the frequent enquires where the responses are often similar facilitates businesses in freeing up staff to deal with the more complex issues.

Although a chatbot cannot handle all customer queries, it can be used to deal with a large number of the routine business enquiries which most companies deal with on a day to day basis.

They improve customer satisfaction

To avoid frustration, a chatbot can be developed to use a “sentiment” function to pass users onto a real advisor if the bot can’t help or if they are not satisfied.
Other benefits can be seen in customer service gains. According to Jon Davies, head of digital at Vodafone, their customer service chatbot, TOBI provides “a far more engaging and personal” customer experience, as well as improving completion rates and reducing transaction times. These types of successes are highlighted in improved net promoter scores (NPS).

Overall chatbots for business can excel in supporting customer service teams in their communications with customers. Providing accessible information 24/7 saves businesses money and time. By 2022 chatbots are expected to save $8 billion7.

Chatbots for business- Drive Sales, Engagement, reach

Drive sales, engagement, reach

These days customers are savvier and demand an intuitive and seamless customer experience. Businesses need to consider using technology to fit in with their communication habits.

Familiar messaging technology

Many users prefer social media and mobile platforms for communication and expect businesses to be online when they are. If users are having a conversation with a chatbot in Facebook Messenger, they are using a conversation channel they are familiar with and they are already using the technology and don’t need to install a new app. The numbers of messenger app users have been steadily rising. As of April 2017 Facebook Messenger had 1.2 billion monthly active users worldwide

Use these channels to reach new and existing customers.

It’s also important to note that 2 out of 3 customers actually prefer to message a business to submit an enquiry rather than use other more traditional channels such as email or phone. Every day 1.4 billion people around the world send over 50 billion messages to communicate with each other. As messaging becomes even more central in people’s lives, demand for service in messaging has continued to rise.

The rise of voice assistants

Voice assistant technology and it’s adoption has gathered serious momentum over the past couple of years. User expectations are rising as they become educated in what it can do. As customers realise that its capabilities go beyond setting a timer, turning down the lights or playing some music; they will look to this channel to make purchases, contact customer support or use as a tool for business specific tasks.

The latest from Google  Popular voice assistants currently include Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Now, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana. The big players are investing heavily in perfecting voice interfaces, read the latest from http://www.thebotforge.io/google-assistant-news-from-io2018/ and http://www.thebotforge.io/google-assistant-demo-duplex-makes-phonecall-io-2018/

The reach of this sort of technology cannot be underestimated. You can read some of the stats and predictions for voice technology here.

Marketing clout

As an effective marketing tool chatbots can give your company an edge as they can enter into personalized and automated communication with your customers.

Using platforms such as Facebook messenger, substituting emails with push notifications can obtain much higher click-through rates. Used wisely opt-in targeted messages or push notifications have 90% read rates and a 40% click-through rate. Chatbots can be used to send users personalised tips, greetings and information, generating leads, harvesting reviews and forging stronger customer relationships.

Utilising these techniques a chatbot is able to reach participants wherever they are, regardless of where the chat session was initiated, whether on a mobile app, a website and even from social platforms such as Facebook Messenger.

Businesses are finding chatbots to be a great tool to engage with their market: “Our target customers are early adopters of social innovation so a chatbot is the perfect vehicle for us to communicate with them”, Sarah Gower, Adidas.

Sales

Chatbots are ideal to answer first customer questions. if the chatbot decides that it can not effectively serve the customer, it can pass those customers to human agents. High value, responsive leads will be called by live agents increasing sales effectiveness.

Chatbots can be used to answer customer’s questions and promote products. Engage with the right customer by analyzing their profile and historical data and user characteristics. A bot can provide a channel for purchasing easily and quickly if requested.

 

Chatbots for business - conclusion

Conclusion

I’ve really only scratched the surface of chatbot and voice interface technology capabilities and what can be achieved and how it can help your business be more competitive. However, it’s important to consider them carefully.  It’s up to the business to decide if a chatbot is a right move for them, for some the business case may not be there or something to consider in the future. Building a chatbot because you think you should or because its the latest thing can only result in wasted time, money and effort.

I hope you find this post helpful in considering how using chatbots for business can help you to achieve a competitive edge.

If you already have a chatbot idea and want to look into this further have a look at our post planning the best chatbot

At the Bot Forge, we specialise in building chatbots so you feel free to contact us if you want to discuss further.

Planning the best chatbot

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Planning the best chatbot: 10 questions to answer

Congratulations you’ve had that lightbulb moment and you have an idea to create the best chatbot, or maybe you’ve heard so much about chatbots lately you feel you should explore the idea of using one for your company. If you want to read more about how a chatbot can help your company read our Why using chatbots for business can help you remain competitive blog post

Best chatbot idea

Whatever the reason now its time to start looking at your idea in more detail to plan the best chatbot..but wait that can be hard. Don’t worry, we can help!

Chatbots have progressed rapidly over the past couple of years with advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP) utilised used across voice and text driven interfaces. There has never been a better time to start a conversational UI project. However its still vitally important to plan your project carefully.

At The Bot Forge, we like to ask our clients the following questions to ensure we have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve with their chatbot project.

So whether you are looking at creating your own bot, or commisioning a team of chatbot experts like ourselves 😉 then it’s important to ask yourself the following 10 questions before you start building the best chatbot.

10 questions to answer to plan the best chatbot

1. What is the purpose of your chatbot?

Why do you want to create a chatbot? What do you want the chatbot to do for your business and how will it achieve your business goals?

Right from the beginning of the project, it? s important for yourself and team to have a clear understanding about what your chatbot will do

2. What are the key goals of your chatbot?

What are the main aims of your chatbot? It could be to drive sales, provide 24/7 customer support or engage with new and existing customers by gathering customer feedback and delivering new product information.

3. How will you measure your chatbot’s success

How will you determine the success of your chatbot? What will your Key Performance Indicators (KPI) be?

For example, you could look at click-through rates, the numbers of enquiries handled correctly or feedback statistics gathered.

4. Who is going to use your chatbot?

Have a clear idea about who is going to use your chatbot, what will be the user demographic? This may influence your chatbot’s persona.

5. Where will your chatbot be deployed?

Your audience should drive your chatbot platform choice if possible. If you can collect information on which messenger platforms your audience use then this should assist your decision. Now is also a good time to consider voice platforms such as Alexa or Google Home.
With over 1 billion active users Facebook Messenger is our favourite messaging platform.

6. What will your chatbot do?

Here you can really start to consider what sort of functionality the chatbot needs to provide and most importantly the conversations it will be able to support.
A good way to capture chatbot requirements is by looking at them as user stories. The story is in the same format: As a , I want , so that: for example:
– I?m a participant, I want to check what time I can start my event, so that I can be ready to leave in good time.
– As a business, I want to collect customer reviews, so that I can improve their experience.
– As a customer, I want to access my account details quickly and receive an account update through my personal assistant.

7. Will the chatbot have a character?

Will the chatbot have its own persona, will it have a character?
Is the chatbot going to just be a polite assistant or does it need a character to carry through your brand?

8. How will the chatbot create value?

Think about the overall chatbot experience for users. How will the chatbot ensure that users come back?
For example by providing a simple and well executed personal assistant then customers are going to use this as their first port of call to find information and/or contact your company.

9. How will people find the chatbot?

How are you going to drive people to find and use your chatbot?
Links on your website and also advertising on Facebook can be great places to start as well as content on your Facebook page.

10. How will you look after your chatbot?

How will you monitor the chatbots performance after its launch? In comparison to other projects, it’s important to note that once the chatbot is launched this is just the start of your journey. Essentially you are at the start of the optimization phase. You will need to provide resources to get the most out of your chatbot after it’s launch.
You will need to monitor user interactions, reactions, unanswered requests: so you can train your chatbot and improve overall user experience, training your chatbot is key!

Best Chatbot - Ready to start building

Conclusion

After working through these 10 questions you should be well on your way to understanding your chatbot concept.

With all our new clients at The Bot Forge chatbot agency, we ask them to fill out our chatbot checklist, feel free to download and work through with other members of your team.

We hope you find this post helpful in getting to grips with your chatbot project, feel free to share if you find the 10 questions useful.

At the Bot Forge, we specialise in building chatbots so you feel free to contact us if you want to discuss further.

6 Reasons you need a chatbot to support your sports event

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Lets look at how chatbots can be used for sports events

As chatbots have become more powerful this has enabled them to take on more complex roles. Using chatbots for sports events can provide an effective tool for mass participation events organisers, sports clubs, race promoters and charity event coordinators to handle participant enquiries 24/7, aid in event organisation and provide an effective marketing tool for event promotion.

Advancements in conversational UIs and AI in sports events management may not be as fast and impactful yet as in some other sectors, but these technologies have the potential to redefine participant experiences and enable smarter event management for the organisers.

Whether you organise Triathlons, Cycling, Swimming, Running or Motorsports events, we are going to cover 6 of the reasons why you should be employing chatbots to support your event.

Chatbots for sports events- Chatbot to support your triathlono

1Familiar Technology

These days sportive, triathlon, marathon participants and entrants are savvier and demand an intuitive and seamless customer experience, using technology to fit in with their communication habits.

Every day 1.4 billion people around the world send over 50 billion messages to communicate with each other. Many prefer social media and mobile platforms for communication and expect organisers to be on-line when they are.

If users are having a conversation with a chatbot in Facebook Messenger, they are using a conversation channel they are familiar with and they are already using the technology and don’t need to install a new app. The numbers of messenger app users have been steadily rising. 2 billion messages are sent on Messenger every month (Facebook data, January 2018).

 

 

Chatbots for sports events-Chatbot to support your sporting event, improve participant conversation

 

2Improve Participant Communication

Event organisers can struggle to provide easy contact points to participants, event attendees are often dogged by problems with contacting anyone running the event.  Traditional channels such as email and organic posts on websites and social media are not performing well enough to rely on completely.  Using chatbots for sports events provides the perfect tool for organisers to send and receive information to/from their entrants.

A chatbot can enter into personalized and automated communication with entrants pre and post event. Using push notifications to send new event information or gaining valuable entrant feedback for post-event evaluation.
Using these techniques a chatbot is able to reach participants wherever they are, regardless of where the chat session was initiated, whether on a mobile app, a website and even from social platforms such as Facebook Messenger.

As a result of using this, a chatbot can be an ideal tool for last-minute event notifications to be broadcast to participants, ensuring that entrants receive the information on time and when it’s relevant. Your event chatbot can also be programmed to respond to users requests to speak to event organisers so that users are always able to converse with real people if needed, ensuring the optimal customer experience.

Chatbots for sports events-Chatbot to support your running event

3Provide Fast Event Information

From an event participants point of view, as we all know, the morning of an event can be stressful and this is often the time when participants need to get to event information as quickly as possible.
Participants spend months training, meticulously buying the correct gear and hours pouring over their training stats and their training routine but it’s surprising how often they forget about the more simple things:

  • “What time is the event parking open?”
  • “what do I need to bring for registration tomorrow?”
  • “does the shop at the event start sell inner tubes?”

A chatbot gives them an easy way to get the right event information fast.
Entrants may still have questions that an event website itself does not answer or does not answer quickly enough. Entrants often find it easier to ask than to search a website. In that case, the chatbot acts as a super navigation assistant to the current information. With AI working in the background the ability to train a chatbot means that the information it provides is always relevant and up to date:

  • what food is available at the feed stations do you know if they provide gels, I’ve forgotten mine?
  • “I’m in Wave 2 what time do I set off?”
  • “whats the water temperature like, do I need to wear a wetsuit today?”
  • “At what distance is the first feed station?”
  • “you won’t believe this but I’ve forgotten my spds can I buy any at the event start?” Sounds far-fetched but it does happen!

For organisers, this gives them peace of mind that entrants have all the required information as well as reducing the costs involved in dealing with each individual enquiry.

The real challenge is building natural language technology that supports the range of questions that entrants ask — for example, all the different ways that people might ask whether they can use tri-bars: The Aktivebot smart automated events assistant can help here.

Chatbots for sports events-Chatbot to support your triathlon event

4Multi Language Customer Support 24/7

For event organisers, the biggest challenge to serving your customers in several communication channels is responding quickly on the run-up to an event and on the event day itself. Although a chatbot cannot handle all customer queries, it can be used to deal with many of the routine event queries that typically make up most enquiries.
One of the great benefits of a chatbot is the constant availability. Customer expectations are high and event participants are no different in expecting a quick response to enquiries. Particularly when it’s race or event day it becomes vital to provide the relevant information at any time of the day.
With a chatbot, you can offer your entrants a customer service which is available 24 hours a day even when there are no employees in the office. You can rely on your bot no matter what time of the day or day of the week or timezone the enquiry is coming from.

Chatbots can be enabled to understand multiple languages. This can be very useful if you are organising global sporting events and want to be able to answer all your entrants without the costs of employing multilingual customer support.

Chatbots are scalable and capable of handling multiple enquiries at any one time, ready to step up when event day enquiry demands are at their peak.
A chatbot can give organisers the ability to have more conversations and help more people at once than other alternatives, for example, live chat applications on websites.

This ability to handle the frequent enquires where the responses are often similar facilitates organisers in freeing up event staff to deal with the more complex issues

Chatbots for sports events- Chatbot to support your cycling event

5Results and Entrant Data Integration

Event registration, deferment and results processes can still be a headache for many events organisers. Difficulties for entrants contacting organisers about their places can often cause them to look elsewhere and this is a sure fire way to create a loss of confidence in your sports event.

With the correct integration development, a chatbot is able to answer complex enquiries by integrating with existing event registration and participant management solutions to immediately look up the correct information. For example, a participant enquiry asking to defer their place due to injury can be actioned and a refund provided easily.
A chatbot can also provide information about event availability and direct entrants to alternative options if there are no places.
Event results are an important part of sporting events. Chatbots can integrate with your results data systems to provide participants with an easy way to look up their results. Chatbots can also be used to notify participants when their results are available via opt-in notifications.
Using chatbots for sports events enables you to connect your chatbot seamlessly with your entire event ecosystem- CRM, ERP, CMS, and other key events applications.

chatbots for sports events - Messenger Marketing, using a Chatbot to promote your event

 

6Events Promotion Using Facebook Messenger Marketing

There is a lot of competition for events companies these days. Sporting events happen on a daily basis meaning the choice for triathlons, sportives and marathons almost seem endless.
With all the noise and excitement competing for attendees, it’s imperative that your event stands out. Your event needs to ensure it’s the one that people repeatedly flock to ensuring a good turn out of entrants and supporters.

Using a chatbot for messenger marketing can help to achieve this.

Traditional ways of promoting events are becoming less effective. Email marketing rates have 5-10% open rates, FB news feeds 0-1% visibility and mobile conversion rates flagging at 1-2%.
In contract through a chatbot opt-in targeted messages or push notifications in Facebook Messenger have up to 90% read rates and a 40% click-through rate.

Event organisers can leverage messenger marketing  to:

  • Promote new events
  • Create noise for your sponsors
  • Request valuable participant feedback
  • Provide training suggestions
  • Drive fundraising

Creating a Buzz For Entrants and Supporters

One of the reasons we love sports events is the anticipation, in the run-up to the event itself, waking up on the day of an event with a spring in our step, and then the palpable rush when we reach the start itself,  checking our gear and attaching our rider/runner number. As an outdoor events promoter, building the hype is an important task ahead of mass participation events; this is not just to build entrants excitement, but to sell places and secure a healthy return on investment.

Maximise Sponsorship Exposure At Your Event

Sponsors are a vital part of an event.  Using Messenger marketing to provide exposure to your sponsors ensures they get max ROI and helps to gain new sponsors in the future. If you’re in it for the long-haul, and plan on running your event many more times in the future, then it’s worth keeping all of your current and potential sponsors engaged.

Conclusion

These are just 6 reasons we’ve covered

Chatbots for sports events-Support your mountain bike eventIt’s clear that using chatbots for sports events is an ideal tool to add to your event management toolbox. Chatbots can significantly improve entrant satisfaction and provides the ideal promotional tool to grow and ensure your events run smoothly at maximum attendance.

Feel free to comment if can think of any other reasons to use a chatbot to support your sports event.

Read More: Learn How AI Powered Sports Software Helped Event Organisers

 

Google Assistant news from io2018

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ONSTAGE AT I/O 2018

In our last blog post, we looked at the totally mind-blowing demo of the new Google Assistant Duplex functionality. But there were some other exciting new features mentioned which we thought we should cover.

Google Assistant Features

Continued Conversation means you can keep talking without having to say “Hey Google”

Google Assistant Conversation Example Picture

If you currently use Google Assistant, you know that it’s annoying having to say “Hey Google” before every single command which can get annoying. Most conversations will incorporate follow-up questions if you didn’t get the answer you wanted or its natural to make another command.

With the new continued conversation feature which is going to be launched soon, you’ll be able to speak to the assistant and it will keep listening for a brief amount of time after the first command to make sure you are not following up with further commands. This is important as it will help make conversations feel more natural. Google says that Assistant will be able to understand when you’re taking to it or to someone else and will respond accordingly.

This feature is similar to the Alexa ‘follow up mode’ which became available a few months ago.

Custom Shopping Orders and Maps and Routines

Google have also improved the assistants shopping capabilities partnering up with Pizza Hut and Starbucks.  Users can now order their favourite pizza or their usual coffee for delivery.

The Google Smart Display platform introduced earlier this year has also received Google Maps integration.

The custom routines feature which was launched earlier this year has also been extended. The routines feature enables you to do multiple things with one command. The new feature means you can now create your own custom routine, for example, you can create your own film night routine which turns down the lights, starts the film and notifies the rest of the house the film is starting. The ability to schedule routines is also coming soon.

 

More Google Assistant Voices

John Legend Singing

Published on July 24th, 2014 | by AlexandreG

If you are not into the current Google Assistant default voice, then you will soon have 6 to choose from, with the R&B singer John Legend featuring soon.

 

Google give an amazing demo of their google assistant making a phone call

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ONSTAGE AT I/O 2018 Showcasing Google Assistant

GOOGLE HAS STARTED OFF ITS ANNUAL 3 DAY I/O DEVELOPER CONFERENCE AT SHORELINE AMPHITHEATER IN MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA. 

In the first day, they have shown some of the amazing new capabilities of Google Assistant. One of them is being able to make phone calls on your behalf. You ask Google Assistant to make an appointment and it makes the call in the background. The demo has to be seen to be believed.

CEO Sundar Pichai played back a phone call recording that he said was placed by the Assistant to a hair salon to book an appointment.

With a voice which sounded totally natural; the person at the salon had no idea they were talking to an automated AI assistant. The Assistant even managed some small talk; dropping “mmhmmm” into the conversation.

Pichai reiterated that this was a real call using Assistant and not some staged demo. “The amazing thing is that Assistant can actually understand the nuances of conversation,” he said. “We’ve been working on this technology for many years. It’s called Google Duplex.” Pichai also made the point that Duplex was still under development and that Google plans to conduct early testing of Duplex inside Assistant this summer. Their aim is “The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments”

Google has a blog post with more Duplex information here which has a lot more examples of Duplex in action using different voices, for example, a really interesting one making a call to a restaurant to book a table.

Google again states that these are real-world examples.:

“While sounding natural, these and other examples are conversations between a fully automatic computer system and real businesses.”

This post also does a good job of highlighting some of the real complexities of having a conversation successfully. With many sentences having different meanings depending on the current context. In the same conversation early on the assistant also handles misinterpretation when the person called mentions a table number taken from what she has misheard. Google Assistant seems to handle this perfectly.

This looks set to be groundbreaking technology:

For users, Google Duplex is making supported tasks easier. Instead of making a phone call, the user simply interacts with the Google Assistant, and the call happens completely in the background without any user involvement.

We are looking forward to seeing more of it in summer and using the technology in our projects.

With Google also announcing their rebranding of its Google Research division to Google AI. The move shows how Google has increasingly focused R&D on natural language processing and neural networks.

It looks like Google are setting their sights on being the world’s biggest artificial intelligence (AI) company.