The Future of Talking to Technology

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Christoph Auer-Welsbach, Partner Innovation Leader at IBM Watson, introduces us to Watson. ‘Talking with Technology’ is an engaging and thought-provoking talk about how Artificial Intelligence is changing the interface between humans and machines. The era of human-machine relationships is transforming customer interactions and provides new opportunities to scale and enhance human expertise.  As product managers, we continually work at the point where customers meet applications, so nearly everything we do is about how users engage with machines. How can we build with Artificial Intelligence in mind, at the same time as maintaining close customer relationships and protecting our brands? Christoph provides insight into where conversational applications might be used and how, as product managers, we can make them successful.

“Hello, How Can I Help?”

Agent-type interfaces such as virtual assistants or chatbots can drive demand and performance and enable new workflows. The Intelligent Assistance space is already busy with over 200 conversational applications in use. These highly accurate human-like interacting machines are leading us into a new age where “85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020”. Conversational AI applications like these will become the human face of technology in the not too far future, meaning less and less involvement between you and the people using your products.

Borrowing from Watson

Watson is a cognitive system designed to simulate human understanding, reasoning and learning.  It makes use of machine learning and natural language processing to enable humans to interact more naturally with machines. Watson can simulate foundational cognitive skills, knowledge organization skills and higher reasoning skills. With Watson technology we can build interfaces which create value for users by responding more creatively to them, and building relationships with them.

Christoph takes us on a quick tour of some areas where better interfaces between humans and machines will enhance services and experiences:

  • In healthcare, doctors have access to vast quantities of information in the form of medical records, academic papers, scans, and images, which machines can easily scan and store. But without an intelligent, adaptive and responsive interface through which to access this information, they are limited by their own ability to search for and process this pile of unstructured data.
  • Examples from the car, hospitality and retail ecommerce industries show how conversational applications are used not just to deliver customer value (such as providing navigation instructions or tourist information), but also to transfer brand values and company culture by becoming the human face and voice of the brand.

Build Trust and Make Sense

Christoph’s key take-aways for product managers using AI are Trust and Interface. Build trust with your customers by inviting initial AI engagement in low risk scenarios. Build the best quality interface you can for your customers, so that when your robot talks, it makes sense.

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