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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 were discussed there. His article will appear soon right here, on our blog, so make sure to stay tuned! Until then, we would like to share with you this storify compilation, bringing together some of the best moments of the first day of FETL 2016.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 world population. Curiously enough, some publications mention that there are 46 languages that have just a single speaker.
And what about Europe? Well, in his presentation about the digital vitality of European language, András Kornai from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences mentioned a list of 283 European languages and dialects.
By the way, the difference between what’s a language and what’s a dialect can sometimes be very diffuse. Don’t forget the famous quote on this point: „A language is a dialect with an army and navy”. But even with 283, Europe is not the richest linguistic area in the world. For example, more than 850 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea alone, a country with less than 8 million people.
But in any case, language is currently a major barrier for the economic and social development of Europe. This is the key motto of the Multilingual Single Digital Market (MSDM). Georg Rehm, from DFKI, current META-NET General Secretary, summarized this challenge with the sentence „Don’t understand, won’t buy” during his presentation of a new version (0.9) of The Strategic Agenda for the MDSM.
However, I would like to highlight two key, inspiring ideas mentioned during the two intense working days in Lisbon.
Ryan McDonald from Google focused on Multilingual Europe as a Challenge for Language Technologies.
The key points he presented were quite strong and very relevant for this community:
António Branco, Principal Researcher of one of the most prominent EU-funded projects on Machine Translation (qtleap), used an insightful idea for motivation in his talk.
In the past, with the advent of PCs, companies reached out to their customers with websites. Currently, with the consolidation of smartphones, the strategy for reaching clients is dominated by the use of mobile apps.
Recently, a CEO of a large social network at an annual conference proposed that, in the future, companies will reach their clients using chatbots.
Summing up, Multilinguality, Mobile and Conversational Interfaces will play a critical role in the immediate future. It’s important to create solutions that won’t be limited to English or any other single language.
Fortunately, Lekta has been designed to take into account all these challenges, and now we are ready to put it into action. Stay tuned!
Pictures and graphics:
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:
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.