Note: This piece is part of the Superheroes section of our Opportunity Sprint. Check out the full do-it-yourself AI strategy workshop program here.

Language is, in many ways, the final frontier for AI. If machines can reliably interact with humans in natural language, whether it be conversationally or by interpreting data and conveying information to us in ways we most easily understand, the way we interact with technology fundamentally changes.

The technology for conversational AI is advancing rapidly. Technical terms include natural language understanding, natural language generation and natural language processing. Recent developments in AI have seen huge improvements in machine translation, speech analysis and virtual assistants.

Many people use voice assistants for simple, every day tasks. Companies use advanced AI in sales and customer service, where AI listens to calls and provides advice in real-time to reps.

There is still a long way to go. Language is supremely complex and is the only truly “human” skill that AI seeks to replicate. When humans store words, we store much more information about that word than an AI does: we store how it sounds, what it means and with a host of subtle associations, links to other words and concepts. When we remember stories or conversations, we don’t remember the actual words, we remember in more abstract terms – we get the gist of it. Conversational AI is far from being able to trace back, to be assured of why it says what it says and to deliver meaning to a human in conversation.

The frontier of conversational AI is in identifying context. Increasingly, AI can remember, infer meaning and progressively build context which means it can be a partner in a cooperative conversation with a human.

The most inspirational examples of conversational AI include:

  • listening to customer service agents in real-time, performing voice analysis and coaching agents as they speak to customers
Cogito helps CSRs understand how their conversational style is annoying the customer or helping
  • listening to sales people’s calls and discovering successful strategies that help sales people increase their skills based on the successes of others
Cheesy, but entertaining, video by Gong, a conversational AI startup focused on sales effectiveness
  • using a talking AI to automate something people don’t want to do themselves

Watch these videos, discuss what you think is inspirational and imagine what could happen next.

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