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Conversational AI
by Mark Smith

I’m not very good at parties. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s the random nature of conversation. If it’s a work thing then the conversation is likely to be constrained by the context. So, if I’m speaking at an AI event, about say automating dialogue, then I’m okay… Chances are people will want to talk about something I have a view on. But at a party, all hell can break loose - people start talking about things I have no idea about. Recently someone started a conversation with me that assumed I knew what TOWIE was (I gather it’s part soap opera, part reality show and follows the lives, loves and scandals of a group…………well, you get the idea). Now I had two choices, pretend I knew what was going on, or say ‘Look, I’m really not very good at trivia like this. I find looking at the lives, loves and scandals of any group of people an utter and total waste of my - and indeed anyone’s - time’. I often choose the latter. It nearly always goes quiet. I slink away. Or more commonly, they slink away. Then it turns out I’m the difficult one. But not in my head, I’m not. I’m just saving everyone’s time.

Anyway, that leads me nicely onto Conversational AI. I like to talk about that. It’s what we do. And funnily enough, I think this is the solution to my problem and why chatbots are better at parties.

So, let’s connect these strands together. Chatbots are what I should be when I’m at a party. If a chatbot is asked about TOWIE it can filter through its endless database of trivia and reply with a conviction that would be sadly missing from me. It might then reply ‘Yes, it was lovely to see Bobby Norris finally found love with Absolutely Ascot’s Ryan Antony after meeting at that exclusive party in London yesterday’, to which the empty-headed questioner would be able to smile and say ‘Bobby’s great, isn’t he? What was that he said about settling the bill after a date?’. Silence. Pro-noun alert. Chatbot slinks away…..but anyway, you get my drift…..

Now back to me. I feel more comfortable in a situation where I know that people have a shared interest (that’s not always work related, it might be in the crowd at a sport I’m interested in, or it might be family with shared genes…). However, to further contain matters I am unusually unwilling to talk about myself socially (ironic in the context of this blog, I agree) so instead I like to ask the questions, listen to the replies and ask a related and more detailed question. To me that is conversation. Asking questions, hearing answers and asking more questions. It’s why my favourite word as a boy was ‘why’. And that’s the key to Conversational AI.

Now, in a recent Gartner research note on ‘Architecture of Conversational Platforms’, published in September this year, they stated:

One exciting development is the ability of conversational platforms to initiate conversations, instead of only responding to users. To be able to do this, the platform would need integrations with some kind of event processing and either explicit or implicit rules for triggering such a conversation.

Yes it does. Yes we have. Hundreds of millions of times. But here’s what’s fascinating – if you start the conversation, then the likely responses are more controlled. Asking someone whether an appointment date is okay for them will result in a containable number of replies. If the answer is no, then the next reply is equally contained and likely to be interpretable in a way that means the Conversational AI can reply with future date availability based on what the customer said was convenient for them. So each subsequent question can further close down the likely answers, thus resulting in an engaging human-like exchange.

So people, if you have a massive amount of trivial data to dive through, then chatbots, with all their silliness, are your answer – however, if you want to automate conversations and use AI to deliver brilliance, then start the conversation, don’t wait for your customer to start their own, and you will make everyone happy because you’ll almost certainly get the answer(s) right.

Now, what the hell is Absolutely Ascot?



Source: Gartner, Architecture of Conversational Platforms, Magnus Revang, Van Baker, Brian Manusama, Anthony Mullen. Published 5 September, 2018 ID:G00371397

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