13 Jun, 2018
This year’s Google I/O conference has put a spotlight on the evolution of Artificial Intelligence. Most notably the natural language processing of the Google Assistant. The conference demonstrated the Google assistant making reservations through a call at a hair salon and restaurant. The assistant answered with a seemingly human voice, intonations and pauses included. Not only that, but the assistant showed new level of intelligence when answering a series of questions in a fast, sensible, and natural way. It sounded exactly like a natural conversation. Google Duplex is the program that makes all this possible. As Sundar Pichai stated, “it [Google Duplex] brings together all our investments over the years, and natural language understanding, deep learning, and text-to-speech”.
Along with Google Duplex, Pichai announced the addition of 6 new voices. The voices are not the monotonous consistent voices we hear with the almost all of the current assistants. These voices express pitch, inflection, and timing. These new voices and the voice used in the Google Duplex demonstration were created through Wavenet. Wavenet is a new deep neural network that monitors the underlying raw audio to produce a realistic AI voice. Wavenet can also be described as a deep generative model. Traditional text-to-speech takes a database of high-quality voice recordings from a single voice actor, snips them, and then combines what is needed to form the response. Wavenet is a convolution neural network, meaning the connections between units are not recurrent. The voices sound natural because each voice sample is enhanced upon the previous. The speech structure is analyzed, each time creating a new sample, a new waveform.
How many times do you say OK Google? Rolling out in a few weeks is the Continued Conversation feature. Like the reservation example, Continued Conversation recognizes when you are talking which allows for a more fluid interaction. For example, you can say “Hey Google, what is the weather like in the morning?”. It responds, “70 degrees and sunny”. From there you can just say, “set a reminder to go for a run” without having to repeat the initial command. With the integration of Continued Conversation, the smart home system will become more socially dynamic. You can now tell your Google Assistant to switch to Netflix, dim the lights, and turn on the popcorn maker just by saying “Hey/OK Google” one time. Tandem to the Continued Conversation feature is the “Pretty Please” feature designed for children. Its purpose to reinforce polite language. This is achieved by responding with phrases like, “thank you for asking nicely”.
What can you do to stay in step with the tech world?
During the conference, Pichai also stated, “60% of small businesses don’t have an online booking system set up”. In today’s business and social atmosphere, having a digital presence is vital to a company’s survival. Integrating technology into the company is not the entirety of a digital transformation, but also becoming a Digital Master. To further understand the importance of a digital presence ,check out these stats from the 2016 State of the Connected Customer Report and the 2016 Connected Shoppers Report.
• 77% of shoppers avoid stores
• 70% of consumers say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.
• 67% of shoppers purchase products from a retailer’s website
• 50% of consumers say they’re likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t offer an easy-to-use mobile experience.
The convenience that Google Assistant and other Artificial Intelligence devices offer to customers, can be available through a chatbot on a company website. The chatbot enhances customer relations by increasing the availability and speed of customer interactions. The consumers could interact with the chatbot to answer a variety of questions at anytime of day. The 2016 State of the Connected Customer Report also stated, “80% of consumers say a company responding immediately when they reach out for help influences their loyalty”. Along with that, IBM predicts by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent.
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