Last week was London Tech Week, so with the promise of free wine and networking with cool people, I attended the Future Thinking in Digital Marketing Meetup. This month’s hot topic was all about The Future Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chat Bots.
First up was David Low, Principal Evangelist for Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit. He explained how we can build our very own Alexa skills (which I can’t wait to try), the design principles a skill should follow and whenever we talk about natural language voice assistants, we invariably draw parallels to the computer on Star Trek.
Where we are today
Some fun facts mentioned - there are now over 13,000 skills available to download and some 250,000 people have bizarrely proposed to Alexa, the voice assistant so far!
Skills are getting more sophisticated and better all the time as the tech evolves. We’re close to watching a football match with the ability to ask Alexa for all the key stats so far in the game, how many corners or yellow cards have there been in the game so far and how many goals has Cristiano Ronaldo scored against the same opposition in his career. It will be intriguing to see if this adds value to the experience.
David explained the design principles a skill should follow:
Design principles of a skill
- skills should provide high value
- skills should evolve over time
- users can speak to your skill naturally and spontaneously
- Alexa should understand most requests
- a skill should respond in an appropriate way
Using an example of a skill named Coffee Now, which lets you place an order for a coffee at your local coffee shop, he then explained the different components of a skill:
Components of a skill
- Invocation name = Coffee Now
- Intents/Function = Order coffee
- Sample utterances = Order a small cappuccino for example
- Slots/Variables = Coffee size/type, with milk etc
- Code/Logic = Advise of cost / place an order / advise of wait time etc
AI powered product selector
Next, Jeremy Waite (Chief Innovation Evangelist at IBM Watson) shared some of his insights how some of the world’s most successful companies are using cognitive technologies and AI to make the world a better place. The highlight for me was the demo of an AI powered product selector by North Face - the outdoor apparel, equipment and footwear retailer. They’ve recently launched a new interactive online shopping experience powered by IBM’s Watson.
Utilising Watson’s natural language processing ability, the tool helps consumers discover and refine product selections based on their responses to a series of questions. For example, the shopper will be asked questions about factors like location, temperature or gender to provide a recommendation that meets their specific usage and climate needs. Let’s say you are off to Iceland in November and you need a warm jacket.
The AI will save you from the usual online shopping experience of scrolling through pages and pages of jacket images. Watson asks where exactly you’re going to use the jacket, and when, and whether you’re male or female, and what sort of activities you plan to engage in.
It then automatically calculates things and recommends the jackets it thinks are best for you.
Further reading: North Face shares the testing results
Charities and AI
At Charities Aid Foundation, we’ve written about how AI is already having an impact with charities and it’s well worth a read.
Helping 10 million people with arthritis better manage their pain, 24/7
The stand-out is how forward-thinking Arthritis Research UK have introduced an AI-powered virtual personal assistant.
Again, created with the Watson Conversation API, to draw information from the Arthritis Research UK library and specific input from the user to offer personalised, immediate advice on symptom management, treatment options and any other questions they may have. They are really thinking about how their virtual assistant could revolutionise the lives of people living with arthritis. Fantastic stuff!