Through our preview journey in the past two years, we have learned a lot from interacting with thousands of customers undergoing digital transformation. We highlighted some of our customer stories (such as UPS, Equadex, and more) in our general availability announcement. This post covers conversational AI in a nutshell using Azure Bot Service and LUIS, what we’ve learned so far, and dive into the new capabilities. We will also show how easy it is to get started in building a conversational bot with natural language.
How can our business leverage technology to better and more often engage younger audiences with our products and services? H&M is one of several retailers experimenting with and leveraging chatbots as a mobile marketing opportunity – according to a report by Accenture, 32 percent of the world (a large portion of the population 29 years old and younger) uses social media daily and 80 percent of that time is via mobile.
Chatbots can reply instantly to any questions. The waiting time is ‘virtually’ 0 (see what I did there?). Even if a real person eventually shows up to fix the issues, the customer gets engaged in the conversation, which can help you build trust. The problem could be better diagnosed, and the chatbot could perform some routine checks with the user. This saves up time for both the customer and the support agent. That’s a lot better than just recklessly waiting for a representative to arrive.
Dan uses an example of a text to speech bot that a user might operate within a car to turn windscreen wipers on and off, and lights on and off. The users’ natural language query is processed by the conversation service to work out the intent and the entity, and then using the context, replies through the dialog in a way that the user can understand.
I've come across this challenge many times, which has made me very focused on adopting new channels that have potential at an early stage to reap the rewards. Just take video ads within Facebook as an example. We're currently at a point where video ads are reaching their peak; cost is still relatively low and engagement is high, but, like with most ad platforms, increased competition will drive up those prices and make it less and less viable for smaller companies (and larger ones) to invest in it.
Getting the remaining values (information that user would have provided to bot’s previous questions, bot’s previous action, results of the API call etc.,) is little bit tricky and here is where the dialogue manager component takes over. These feature values will need to be extracted from the training data that the user will define in the form of sample conversations between the user and the bot. These sample conversations should be prepared in such a fashion that they capture most of the possible conversational flows while pretending to be both an user and a bot.
The chatbot design is the process that defines the interaction between the user and the chatbot. The chatbot designer will define the chatbot personality, the questions that will be asked to the users, and the overall interaction.  It can be viewed as a subset of the conversational design.In order to speed up this process, designers can use dedicated chatbot design tools, that allow for immediate preview, team collaboration and video export. An important part of the chatbot design is also centered around user testing. User testing can be performed following the same principles that guide the user testing of graphical interfaces.
Creating a comprehensive conversational flow chart will feel like the greatest hurdle of the process, but know it's just the beginning. It's the commitment to tweaking and improving in the months and years following that makes a great bot. As Clara de Soto, cofounder of Reply.ai, told VentureBeat, "You're never just 'building a bot' so much as launching a 'conversational strategy' — one that's constantly evolving and being optimized based on how users are actually interacting with it."
In a traditional application, the user interface (UI) is a series of screens. A single app or website can use one or more screens as needed to exchange information with the user. Most applications start with a main screen where users initially land and provide navigation that leads to other screens for various functions like starting a new order, browsing products, or looking for help.
Note — If the plan is to build the sample conversations from the scratch, then one recommended way is to use an approach called interactive learning. We will not go into the details of the interactive learning here, but to put it in simple terms and as the name suggests, it is a user interface application that will prompt the user to input the user request and then the dialogue manager model will come up with its top choices for predicting the best next_action, prompting the user again to confirm on its priority of learned choices. The model uses this feedback to refine its predictions for next time (This is like a reinforcement learning technique wherein the model is rewarded for its correct predictions).
The process of building, testing and deploying chatbots can be done on cloud based chatbot development platforms offered by cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) providers such as Yekaliva, Oracle Cloud Platform, SnatchBot and IBM Watson.   These cloud platforms provide Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Backend as a Service for chatbot development.
A chatbot that functions through machine learning has an artificial neural network inspired by the neural nodes of the human brain. The bot is programmed to self-learn as it is introduced to new dialogues and words. In effect, as a chatbot receives new voice or textual dialogues, the number of inquiries that it can reply and the accuracy of each response it gives increases. Facebook has a machine learning chatbot that creates a platform for companies to interact with their consumers through the Facebook Messenger application. Using the Messenger bot, users can buy shoes from Spring, order a ride from Uber, and have election conversations with the New York Times which used the Messenger bot to cover the 2016 presidential election between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. If a user asked the New York Times through his/her app a question like “What’s new today?” or “What do the polls say?” the bot would reply to the request.
The classic historic early chatbots are ELIZA (1966) and PARRY (1972). More recent notable programs include A.L.I.C.E., Jabberwacky and D.U.D.E (Agence Nationale de la Recherche and CNRS 2006). While ELIZA and PARRY were used exclusively to simulate typed conversation, many chatbots now include functional features such as games and web searching abilities. In 1984, a book called The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed was published, allegedly written by the chatbot Racter (though the program as released would not have been capable of doing so).