Is Humanising Chatbots the Next Inevitable Improvement?

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Ashley Hathaway is Senior Developer Evangelist at IBM Watson, a company that has become renowned in recent years for their expertise in artificial intelligence and analytical software.

In 2011, Watson made headlines after defeating two Jeopardy! champions. Since then, the supercomputer's skills have been applied effectively in medical advancements, psycholinguistics, travel recommendation systems, and computational creativity for cookery.

With a background in UX and a passion for machine learning and natural language processing, Ashley will be speaking at the Chatbots Track of the Deep Learning Summit, London, on 23 September, on a panel that will explore how humanising virtual assistants can improve them. I asked her a few questions to learn more about the future of chatbots.

What present or potential future applications of chatbots excite you most?
Specifically to chatbots, I'm really interested in the differing UX they ask us to consider. Also how AI and IoT can work together to really connect us in very new ways. Anytime you get something like that there are always unexpected serendipities which I'm quite excited about. I'm thinking a lot about how brands and designers can start to educate themselves on a very basic level about AI to improve their products.

Which industries do you feel will be most disrupted by chatbots, and artificial intelligence in general, in the future?
Eventually every industry will be affected for sure. Obviously customer service and transportation are going to be the biggies first. I think finance, healthcare, and defense are interesting fields because they have such a large database of very private information. And because AI requires large amounts of data at times those are areas where I think we're going to see a lot of impact. I'm quite interested in blockchain personally so I'm curious how AI will be able to help finance.

What developments can we expect to see in virtual assistants in the next 5 years?
For developers: the ability to pick and add custom bodies of content or corpuses. I.e.- add slang greetings, add common questions, add questions specific to banking, etc. That will happen pretty quickly. For users: more successful interactions, deeper interactions, and way way more personalized experiences. I think we'll be staring at our phones a lot less in 5 years and talking a lot more. 

In your opinion, are we ready for emotional AI?
I think as persons in tech we're probably more ready than the rest of the population. It's just like the tech adoption curve to me and we're the early adopters. Eventually emotional AI or stronger forms of AI will be more and more commonplace. I think it's also the "we don't know what we don't know" question and just how 'emotional' these systems are. There's a very very distinct difference in a system being able to add voice inflection based on context and quite another for a machine to *actually feel*. I also think that regardless of whether we're ready or not it's going to happen more and more.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges for adopting chatbots to everyday life and industry?
Well, there are some technological limitations right now. As we progress in that and Moore's Law keeps ticking those challenges will get smaller and smaller. I'm seeing more and more press for quantum computing which is very exciting. That's going to make a huge difference. What's most interesting to me actually is seeing how chatbots will affect other use cases than just primarily customer service. Obviously there are use cases and industries that it will make more of an impact in initially, but to me that technological advancement will allow us to improve more and more areas.

Ashley Hathaway will be speaking at the Chatbots Track on 23 September, as part of the Day 2 of the Deep Learning Summit in London. Other speakers focusing on chatbots and virtual assistants include Sam Boyle, General Manager at Inbenta; Chris Brauer, CAST Co-Director at Goldsmiths, University of London; Artem Rodichev, Machine Learning Engineer at Luka; Alan Nichol, CTO & Co-Founder at LastMile; and Matteo Berlucchi, CEO at Your.MD.

For more information and to register for the Chatbots Track, please visit the website here.

We are also holding the Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco, on 26-27 January! Early Bird tickets are available until 7 October, to book your discounted pass visit the event website here.

Machine Learning Deep Learning Algorithms Deep Learning Voice Recognition NLP Design & UX AI Assistants AI Deep Learning Summit Speech Recognition Chatbots


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