As technology evolves, so do the User Interfaces (UIs) that people use to access them. The vanguard of UIs allow humans to engage with technologies through the medium most comfortable to them: conversation.

Through Artificial Intelligence (AI), conversational technologies allow users to talk — either via actual spoken words or chat/text — to a digital system just as they would with another human, which is a completely new paradigm with the potential to transform whole industries. One study found that conversational AI represented a $7 billion market as of 2017 and is expected to reach $74 billion by 2023. Conversational AI offers many inherent benefits for businesses, notably the possible reduction of overhead costs while subsequently enhancing services. However, some of the biggest opportunities await users who use conversational solutions to translate words into action.

It’s All About Versatility

Conversational interfaces have been on the market for decades in the form of low-level chatbots. While these early-generation interfaces allowed humans to “talk” to digital systems, the engagements often felt like one was talking to a machine rather than another person.

These rudimentary conversational systems often follow rigid decision trees that leave little room for deviation, which is not how humans naturally communicate (e.g., “Sure, I’ll meet you at the movies at three… oh I just realized, I’ll be across town, can we do a later showing?”). Also, these systems often only have the ability to react to specific phrasing or keywords and could be easily felled by unfamiliar inputs — a particular hindrance to wide adoption as no two humans communicate in exactly the same way. (“Up for a movie tonight?” versus “Want to see that new horror flick at 7?” versus “Hey, we’re all going to the downtown theater tonight. You in?”)

Fortunately, the new generation of AI-powered Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) like Amelia allows users to talk to digital systems with much of the same versatility they expect when conversing with another person. The most advanced IVAs have “context switching,” meaning users can go back to earlier points in a process or conversation without beginning all over again, just as you might while talking with a human. These IVAs are also able to discern user intent from a wide range of phrases, which is particularly important in external-facing use cases where the full spectrum of human communication could be at play. (Click here to read more about the science behind Amelia that allows her to switch context seamlessly.)

Action to the Power of Conversation

When machines learn to “speak human,” it opens up many intriguing possibilities, particularly when partnered with an end-to-end autonomic framework like 1Desk, which includes Amelia as the solution’s cognitive interface.

The intent recognition offered by advanced IVAs like Amelia allows users to provide top-level commands which can be executed by the digital system with machine efficiency. For example, a marketing employee might simply tell a system, “Please send out a promotional email about our upcoming sale to all customers who have spent at least $100 with us online in the past year.” In many current systems, this task would involve many steps, possibly many people and most definitely take longer to implement than the time it takes to simply speak and interact directly to the systems necessary to make it happen. Of course, we would contend that Amelia performs these tasks better than other IVAs in the market.

Another important point is that conversational interfaces lower the bar for access to digital systems. While this is a potential game-changer for the disabled community in society at large, it also levels the playing field for all business users regardless of their training or technical acumen. To continue with the marketing email example, that task could theoretically be executed by a new employee on day one through a conversational AI platform.

It’s easy to imagine what a seamless, comprehensive intuitive interface could accomplish within a business if that interface was part of a platform that could turn talk into action.

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