The Rise of Voice Interfaces & the Conversational Experience

Voice interfaces are the newest (and trendiest) digital vehicle for information discovery and exchange and companies are becoming increasingly interested in their use, particularly those seeking to improve and maximize customer engagement.

Developing such solutions can be challenging of course but there are some offerings emerging which aim to eliminate much of the complexity.

IBM, for example, recently launched Watson Assistant, a service of its cognitive computing platform that is focused on helping companies actually build out voice-activated virtual assistants for conversational experiences.

What's interesting about the release is that it is a white-label product - which means there is no IBM branding (the animated globe) or "wake word" as there is with Amazon's Alexa or Google's Home Assistant.

IBM is certainly not the first to offer a white-label conversational user experience platform of this nature. Microsoft has its machine learning-based language understanding service (LUIS) to build natural language into apps, bots, and IoT devices, and Amazon opened up the backend that powers Alexa - Amazon Lex (there are also numerous third-party platforms that offer natural language-based services).

Developers using the system will be able to train their assistants using their own datasets and it appears to be quite easy to add actions and commands. Another interesting aspect of the technology is that each integration of Watson Assistant keep its data to itself, meaning companies will not likely be pooling information on users' activities from across multiple domains.

While it's increasingly common to see conversational interfaces integrated into applications - there is still a long way to go before these solution hit their proverbial tipping point. There is some interesting work already being done however.

For example, Autodesk is using Watson Assistant for a digital agent, Harman is working with the solution for an AI-based interactive dashboard in a Maserati concept car, and Staples is using it within some of its retail stores through its "Easy System." More on IBM Watson from Website Magazine:

+ After Jeopardy, Where is IBM Watson Today?
+ You're Just Not Ready (Yet) for Cognitive Computing