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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.

 

Konstantin Dukakis

Konstantin Dukakis

Marketing Manager at Lekta
Marketing Manager with background in data analytics and startup marketing. In my free time I read about A.I. and play golf.
Konstantin Dukakis

Konstantin Dukakis

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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.

Konstantin Dukakis

Konstantin Dukakis

Marketing Manager at Lekta
Marketing Manager with background in data analytics and startup marketing. In my free time I read about A.I. and play golf.
Konstantin Dukakis
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 the technology, information and tools they have put in the hands of employees.

Contact centers yesterday

Not so long ago, contact centers weren’t that different from a secretary’s office. Agents working there had a telephone and email. Some of them had an IVR system that could be programmed to route certain calls to certain agents.

It’s safe to assume that agents had very little information about callers – who they were or why they were calling. They had to find out everything during the course of the call, which of course made it last much longer than it had to.

Contact centers today

Today, contact centers have more advanced technology that lets them significantly raise the level of customer service they deliver. Apart from telephones, text messages, email and IVR there are chat capabilities and basic bots that can take care of simple questions or set up appointments.

Agents in call centers get help from ACD (automatic call distribution), IVR (automatic voice service connections) and CTI (integration of telecommunications and information technology). These three tech solutions allow calls to be connected to specific agents thanks to ACD, basic verification of the nature of the call with IVR and quick verification of the caller with CTI.

In addition to these tools, agents also have access to video connections that significantly improve service, especially in IT. The ability to see the caller on a video screen makes setting up the parameters of the situation and solving problems much easier.

Contact centers tomorrow

Some technologies of tomorrow can be found today in certain companies even though not all of them see the full potential of those technologies yet. It’s worth noting though that even the most cutting edge technology has its pluses.

Imagine a situation when you call your bank and you hear “Welcome, how can I help you?” It’s just like when you walk into the local branch, except… you’re not talking to a human. It’s an advanced information system that is able to have a conversation with you just like the friendly agent in the bank would.

The advantages of such a system are obvious:

  • A customer service center, available day and night, with the ability to carry on voice contact and resolve problems over the phone.
  • Callers can ask to speak with an actual representative at any time but most inquiries can be solved with just the human-machine interaction.

How is this possible?

The Lekta NLP system is making its debut. It implements the logic of leading dialogue and easily adapts to the specific topic of a conversation and takes the conversation in the right direction. Callers have control over the conversation – Lekta just shares information or asks for necessary details.

dialog interface

Lekta can reliably identify problems and deliver relevant information or direct the conversation to the right person along with all the data gathered from the caller.

It may sound like science fiction but this is simply very advanced technology that makes it possible to talk with machines in a conversation that’s no different than a chat between two people. Lekta is the dialogue interface of the future and is available today.

Support, not competition

Implementing new technologies often causes anxiety among employees since it raises questions about their future. But not every tech solution means reducing staff. More and more systems are being created to support and help the work of employees and that’s the case with Lekta.

The system is able to handle about 80% of the conversations that usually go to call center agents. From a business point of view, this is a huge help and takes small matters out of the hands of agents, letting them concentrate on more complex matters and customer issues.

Lekta frees up the time of not only employees of call centers but the management team as well. It doesn’t require a hiring process or training and it works all day, every day. It also offers continuous insight into the course of any conversation and makes it possible to optimize offers that are better matched to the needs and expectations of customers.

These features make it worth trusting this technology and integrating it into the customer relations in your business. After all, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving back.

Feel free to contact us if you want to talk about the Lekta.

Konstantin Dukakis

Konstantin Dukakis

Marketing Manager at Lekta
Marketing Manager with background in data analytics and startup marketing. In my free time I read about A.I. and play golf.
Konstantin Dukakis
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 can be looking at a market worth $70bn by 2020 for just the AI part of it. WOW, right?

Global AI and robots market

Now, according to Tractica, natural language processing is “emerging as one of the most highly utilized technologies in the broader field of AI”. This is due mostly to the increasingly recognized value of data and the fact that a lot of it comes from naturally spoken and written words. Because a lot of data is simply human.

Natural language processing is already used to some extent in healthcare, e-commerce, and IT and telecom industries. Those are also the NLP market segments to grow the most over the next few years.

The overall NLP market size is predicted to arrive at a whopping $16.07bln by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 16.1%. This will be caused mainly by increasing demand for better customer experience, as well as increasing usage of smart devices. The fastest market growth will be experienced in Asia and North America.

In that prediction, a very broad definition of NLP is used, and it includes information retrieval, information extraction, automatic summarization, machine translation and dialogue systems. So, it can mean anything from a virtual assistant to tools for extracting data from huge amounts of spoken and written words, numbers, phrases and sentences.

At Lekta, we chose to concentrate on conversational interfaces and just that has a whole lot of usage possibilities. But obviously, since Lekta is a framework that is not rigidly defined, it can have other applications as well. And we plan to enable developers to use Lekta to create all sorts of amazing things in the near future.

But let’s get back to the topic at hand. Natural language processing is a great technology for automating human tasks without losing the human touch. And yes, that also means that people who did those jobs will have to move on to doing something else. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.

As one Oxford study predicts, “low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.”

We’ll cover the topic of NLP’s influence on the future of employment in one of our future posts, so please do let me know your thoughts on the topic, in the comments section or in a direct e-mail!

Konstantin Dukakis

Konstantin Dukakis

Marketing Manager at Lekta
Marketing Manager with background in data analytics and startup marketing. In my free time I read about A.I. and play golf.
Konstantin Dukakis
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.

 

Konstantin Dukakis

Konstantin Dukakis

Marketing Manager at Lekta
Marketing Manager with background in data analytics and startup marketing. In my free time I read about A.I. and play golf.
Konstantin Dukakis
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
nick-franklin-saas-meetup-krakow
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?

Konstantin Dukakis

Konstantin Dukakis

Marketing Manager at Lekta
Marketing Manager with background in data analytics and startup marketing. In my free time I read about A.I. and play golf.
Konstantin Dukakis

By Daniele Zedda • 18 February

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