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AI predictions for B2C communications – An infographic

What 2017 will bring for NLP-based dialog systems: The technology landscape is moving fast. In this ever-changing environment, Natural Language has re-surfaced as one of the biggest and most important AI components in the industry today. Here’s what 2017 will bring to A.I. and B2C communications in general.  

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3 ways NLP Dialog Systems are changing B2C communication – An infographic

NLP Dialog Systems are changing the rules of B2C communication Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over the world, and intelligent B2C communications are no exception. State of the art Spoken Dialogue Systems are here to stay and they will become smarter and smarter every year. Here are the 3 ways that NLP Dialog Systems are moving the needle today:  

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A storify recap of Future and Emerging Trends in Language Technologies (FETLT) 2016

Future and Emerging Trends in Language Technologies conference (FETLT 2016), which took place in Seville between 30th of November and 2nd of December, brought together leading researchers, academics and industry representatives for an intense 3-days interactive event. Co-organized by our CTO, José F. Quesada, and proudly sponsored by Lekta, FETLT’s strategic objectives were to facilitate dynamics between research groups, with special attention to Machine Learning and Big Data. It was clearly one of the most interesting Language Technologies events of the year. José will write more about the conference and the leading research and industry trends that […]

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Conversational interface illustrated with two cog-filled heads
Conversational Interaction for Business: Key takeouts from LT-Accelerate 2016

As we’re enjoying listening to some amazing speakers at FETLT2016, co-organized by our very own CTO – José F. Quesada, there are some things we would like to share with you about another language technologies-related conference, which we attended last week in Brussels – LT-Accelerate.

LT-Accelerate is the premier European conference focusing on building value through language technology. The purpose of the conference is to connect text, speech, social and big data analysis technologies to a spectrum of corporate and public sector applications and also to present the state of language technologies in the industry today.

José had the opportunity to talk about Lekta in the context of Conversational Interaction for Businesses and presented the results of more than 4 years of intensive work focused on the creation of advanced, collaborative and fluent conversational interfaces.

Lekta’s CTO José F. Quesada presenting at LT–Accelerate. Image originally posted on Twitter by @LTInnovate

Here are the key takeouts:

2016 IS THE YEAR OF EVERYTHING CONVERSATIONAL

Conversational interfaces have become a hot topic. Many companies have been making huge investments in researching technologies related to artificial intelligence, with a special emphasis on machine learning, deep neural networks and natural language understanding. Their aim is mostly to create intelligent assistants that will enable users to interact with information and services in a more natural and conversational way.

THE ADVENT OF THE DIALOG SYSTEMS & THE EMERGENCE OF MESSAGING

Companies have been using dialogue systems or conversational technologies in general  for a number of years, mainly for customer service and typically to replace or assist live agents in call centers or as an alternative to point-and-click interfaces for their websites. But lately, a number of factors are ushering them in a new era of conversational interaction.

Advances in cognitive technologies are making it possible to provide increasingly accurate and relevant automated dialogues. For example, speech recognition software has made advances in reducing word error rates, and machine translation has improved thanks to deep learning techniques. Moreover, improvements in speech and language processing technologies are making conversational interaction more capable, expanding their potential applications across the enterprise.

As technology is evolving faster than ever before, consumer preferences undergo their own fundamental change as well. According to some observers, the app ecosystem appears to be burdened by a kind of “app fatigue”—a declining willingness among consumers to install and use new mobile apps. Quite unexpectedly though, during this shift of the app ecosystem, messaging has emerged as a dominant online activity, with brands trying to take advantage of conversational technologies as a new consumer interaction channel.

COGNITIVE TECHNOLOGIES ARE HERE TO STAY

Deloitte Global predicts that by the end of 2016 more than 80 of the world’s 100 largest enterprise software companies by revenues will have integrated cognitive technologies into their products. That’s a 25 percent increase on the prior year. By 2020, it’s expected that the number will rise to about 95 out of 100.

Specifically, during 2016 and the next few years, the cognitive technologies that are and will be the most important in the enterprise software market will include advanced Speech Recognition, Natural Language Understanding and Machine Learning Technologies.

Summary

Providing computers with the human capability of language understanding has proven to be one of the most complex computational challenges in Artificial Intelligence development. At the same time though, the opportunity created in the industry at large – as we overcome the last technical challenges – cannot be overlooked. Conversational business interaction is already transforming Customer Support, User Experience and Business Intelligence, among other fields. At the same time, new terms like “conversational commerce” are being coined.

In this ever-changing landscape, the only thing that remains clear about the future is that  no successful business can afford to ignore this trend.

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NLP market is growing
Natural Language Processing is worth it—the market size of one of the biggest AI components

Before we go into why it’s worth investing in NLP from a company’s point of view, let’s take a look at whether all this artificial intelligence talk could be just a passing trend that your business can do without. One way to think about it: If the market is growing, there must be something in it. So how does the AI/NLP market look? Well, it’s a little complicated to define what exactly constitutes artificial intelligence but if you think of the all-encompassing robots and artificial intelligence market, like Bank of America Merrill Lynch did, you […]

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Lekta talking to a human-machine
Talking to machines more naturally than ever before—voice interface for Lekta NLP

Voice User Interface (VUI) has become one of the most natural and intuitive methods of human-machine interaction. Today, we already use it to control cars, smartphones, and numerous connected home devices. We even communicate with businesses such as banks or insurance companies via self-service voice applications, without using touch-tones (DTMF). Take a look at our previous posts on Connected Customers and Contact Centers where we cover these topics in more detail. In fact, there are several reasons why voice UI is so cool: very often, it’s a more suitable way of, let’s say, providing a […]

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contact centers
Contact centers (yesterday, now, tomorrow)

Not everyone feels confident that they are getting the best possible help when they call a contact center for assistance. This skepticism often extends to the technology being used when a customer calls with a question. This is important since the technology that the person handling the call can determine how well they do their jobs as well as the kind and amount of information they have about the caller. Technology that provides context about the customer is still a rarity. Let’s take a look at how contact centers have changed over the years and […]

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Lekta - the multilingual NLP framework
Multilingualism and technology—key takeouts from META-FORUM 2016

Are you wondering which language you should learn in the post-Brexit Europe? Alex Waibel, from Carnegie Mellon University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, raised this point during his speech after receiving the META Prize at the recent META-FORUM event held in Lisbon on 4/5 July 2016. Perhaps you could consider any of the multiple other languages spoken in Europe. By the way, have you ever thought about how many languages, or dialects, are spoken world-wide? Although there are some 7,000 languages registered, the list of the top 25 languages only represent around 50% of the […]

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I want it all and I want it now—what (hyper)connected customers are all about

You’re probably familiar with Queen’s song “I Want It All“. You’ve probably also heard the expression “connected customer” or “hyper-connected consumer” (used to describe people who are almost constantly connected to the internet in some way via computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, IoT devices, etc.). But do you know what these two things have in common? Yeah, you guessed it – it’s mostly the fact that some of the lyrics very nicely describe the idea of connected customer: So much to do in one lifetime (people do you hear me) Not a man for compromise and ‘wheres’ and ‘whys’ and living lies […]

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Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, bots —a passing trend or much more?

Artificial intelligence is taking over the world whether we want it or not, so we can either make it work for us or against us. I choose the former. But how? That’s one of the things we talked about with some fellow startuppers last week.

The wonders of the SaaS startup community

It’s good to experience the startup community firsthand from time to time. It helps you keep your finger on the pulse much more effectively than just gathering data online or talking to people on Facebook and Twitter. That’s exactly why we decided to go to the SaaS Meetup, to see what the perceived trends in the startup world are, and to talk to some founders to find out whether these trends actually mean something. We also wanted to introduce some of our ideas and get feedback on how to best develop, launch, and promote our project.

So, we got into a few discussions on AI, NLP, machine learning bots taking over the world and all that. But… before I go on to talking about the outcomes, maybe I should start by telling you what it is we’re doing at Lekta :).

Lekta – the voice interface of the future

Well, in a nutshell, we’re doing some really awesome stuff. I’m not saying that simply because it’s my job to put Lekta in the best light possible but because I’m honestly and extremely excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of us. And by us, I don’t just mean the Lekta team, I mean the entire world; the world of everything connected: connected customers, connected devices, connected businesses.

But anyway, I’m starting to babble and you probably just want to finally find out what Lekta is. Right?

Lekta is an advanced spoken and written Dialogue System Framework. It redefines the way people communicate with businesses. Lekta’s cutting edge technology can automatically manage millions of conversations with customers, users, and devices.

And what exactly does that mean? It basically means that you can use Lekta as a voice (and also text) interface for anything you want. It can be a 24/7 virtual agent in a contact center, e-commerce store or a doctor’s office. It can add voice control to any app. It can enable your IoT devices to have a real conversation with you. It can help you to easily connect apps to each other, apps to devices, and more.

I call it “Siri on steroids”, but Lekta is so much more than that. I’m not going to go into too many technical details because I’m not the one who should do it, the creator of Lekta, Jose Quesada, and our Lead Developer, Daniel Slavetskiy, are way more qualified to do that. And don’t worry, they will. Soon. On this blog.

In the meantime, let me go back to our SaaS Meetup discussions.

Are AI and NLP the way to go?

We mainly discussed AI and NLP and specifically tried to answer the question whether the two actually make our lives easier. Do people prefer touchscreens and clicking a couple of buttons instead of using voice commands? And do they prefer talking to a human instead of a virtual assistant? Well, the opinions vary but we did come to some conclusions*:

  1. Some people just don’t want to talk to robots however, most people don’t mind talking to a robot, as long as doing so actually speeds up the process of, say, ordering a pizza or scheduling a medical appointment. So, as long as talking to a bot makes things easier and faster, the users won’t mind not being able to talk to a customer support agent, a secretary or a sales assistant.
  2. People don’t want to be tricked into thinking they’re talking to a real human. They actually prefer knowing they’re talking to a robot from the very beginning, as opposed to discovering the fact after engaging in the conversation.
  3. There might be an issue with the security of ASR-enabled solutions. When you allow a device to detect your voice at any point in time, the sensible assumption would be that it’s always listening. Take Amazon’s Echo, for example. You put it on a table in your living room and when you want to have a private conversation… are you sure Amazon doesn’t hear you? We obviously don’t want to get paranoid and, personally, I try not to care about stuff like that but, a lot of people can get freaked out if you tell them that the reason why they can voice-control everything around them is that every single device is listening to them. All. The. Time.

So those are the main things we managed to discuss between keynotes and lunch :).

The future of AI

The keynotes though! The speakers only assured us in thinking that we’re right in the eye of the AI storm. The predictions are that basically everything will be AI-enabled sooner or later. Starting with healthcare, marketing and business intelligence.

According to Nick Franklin‘s (CEO of ChartMogul) keynote, AI will also be crucial in customer service, sales, and bookkeeping. The UI paradigm also shifts toward more natural language in both text and voice communication.

AI-heat-map-featured-June2016
“Artificial Intelligence: Sub-Industry Heatmap” by CBInsights
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Nick Franklin’s keynote at SaaS Meetup in June 2016 in Krakow, Poland

Since Lekta is all about AI and NLP, I’d say we have a great chance of becoming part of something big – bigger than just a passing trend and temporary hype. AI is here to stay, so let’s use its full potential to make our lives… even more enjoyable!


*Remember, these are just conclusions from a bunch of startuppers, based on what they heard, read, saw, and experienced – so not exactly a sample representative of our entire society. But still, I think we managed to touch on some important issues that can be a base for further discussion. So… is there anything AI/NLP-related that you would like to discuss?

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By Daniele Zedda • 18 February

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By Daniele Zedda • 18 February

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