Natural language processing (NLP) is becoming ever more relevant in the world of conversational artificial intelligence (AI), where bots interact with humans to drive processes forward. Solution providers are looking to technologies such as AI to create new opportunities.
"Industry as a whole is showing more interest in automation powered by AI," said Sagi Brody, CTO of Webair, a NY-based cloud services provider. "AI-powered bots that can interact with humans are the next logical step and will help to accelerate customer interactions and potentially reduce the time it takes to resolve a problem."
While some may consider building bots a relatively straightforward process, the truth is, adding the ability to understand voice interactions and incorporate AI is far from simple. However, the technology is rapidly improving. Research house Gartner predicts that 70 per cent of organizations will integrate AI for productivity purposes by 2021, establishing that there will be a significant market for the technology.
However, solution providers looking to build chat bots and leverage NLP and AI should be cautious.
"First impressions are critical in the world of conversational AI," said Accenture's global lead for the technology, Laëtitia Cailleteau.
Cailleteau pointed out that customers are less likely to trust conversational AI if results are less than stellar.
Yet the technology is rapidly advancing. She said in a presentation at Dell BoomiWorld19 that Accenture is working on more than 300 projects that incorporate conversational AI. Projects ranging from in-vehicle assistants to digital concierges to elder care are all showing great promise, she said.
Cailleteau pointed to one specific use case called Homecare, which is built on an Accenture platform and uses AI and the ease of voice to help older people manage the daunting challenges of navigating their care delivery and well-being. As voice-powered digital assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Cortana become more ubiquitous in society, human-to-machine voice interactions will become more acceptable.
For solution providers, new opportunities are being created by the technology and numerous vendors are getting involved with providing the toolkits to build advanced chat bots that incorporate a modicum of intelligence to deliver value to their customers.
For solution providers, conversational AI could prove to be a lucrative market. Cailleteau noted that there are numerous players in the space and a multitude of applicability for the technology, powering everything from sales to healthcare to support.
Yet she cautions that "bots may be easy to build, but building bots at scale with AI is still a difficult task". In other words, there are still obstacles to overcome, ranging from having the proper tools to integrate the technology to being able to deploy large-scale solutions that can handle thousands of concurrent sessions.
Despite those challenges, the general consensus is that AI, NLP and voice will be everywhere and will become the norm in the not too distant future. Even so, the purveyors of the technology still insist that a human-centric approach will be critical for the technology to succeed. "Chat bots should not completely replace human interaction," warned Cailleteau.
As the technology further evolves, solution providers will be able to build complex chat bots that leverage predictive analytics. So as more data about interactions is gathered, chat bots will be able to better predict what the customer needs, potentially improving service and limiting the need for human interaction to accomplish a task.
What's more, integration platforms such as those from Boomi, Mulesoft, and others will further extend the reach of conversational AI into other applications, making AI and NLP part of digital transformation efforts.
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