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November 17, 2016

Smarter bots are coming to Facebook, Google and Amazon assistants

by John_A

We keep hearing that robots are going to take our jobs, but a company called MindMeld is giving us an idea how with its “Deep-Domain Conversational AI Platform.” It’ll allow bots that can essentially replace customer service agents and even baristas by answering complicated voice or text queries over Google Assistant, Amazon Echo, Facebook Messenger and other popular platforms. Uniqlo, for one, will offer a Facebook bot that can answer questions about its products, services and retail locations with more detail than ever.

The “MindMeld Language Parser” helps it understand and answer questions with “human-like accuracy,” whether by talk or text, the company says. It adds that while current AI toolkits from Google, Facebook and others are great, they provide “little data suitable for production-quality applications” — in other words, they can do deep learning, but don’t give companies anything to teach them. It reckons that customers have been “disappointed and underwhelmed” with first-gen bots — something Facebook pretty much said not long ago.

In a video (below) the company showed some (simulated) scenarios of the bot in action. It understands relatively complicated searches, like a coffee order for a “venti, hot Pike Place Roast with room,” (I have no idea myself what that actually is). The bot can then process the order and give you a pickup time and price, or else auto-suggest more options via buttons at the bottom of the screen.

Other features include question responses across “any dynamic knowledge graph,” dialogue management and state tracking, large-scale training data generation and cloud-based or on-premise deployment. Basically, all of those buzzwords mean that companies can put together a bot without needing to do a lot of extra work (for a price, of course).

The company thinks bots will be able to do tasks like “placing a take-out order at a local restaurant, booking a flight or hotel reservation, creating a service appointment at an auto repair shop or doctor’s office, or finding retail store and production information.” It’ll eventually work across “Amazon Alexa, Facebook Messenger, Google Assistant, Skype, Slack, Google Home and more,” says MindMeld CEO Tim Tuttle.

The platform is available starting today, and MindMeld customers and investors already include Google, Samsung, Intel, Uniqlo, Spotify, Telefonica and others. Suffice to say, if you work in customer service or other areas, you may want to start buffing up your resume.

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