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Thought Leaders in Artificial Intelligence: Jonathan Crane, Chief Commercial Officer at IPSoft (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Dec 9th 2015

Sramana Mitra: How big is your virtual agent business?

Jonathan Crane: It’s just started growing because we’ve just released it. Over the last year, we’ve established pilots in every one of the vertical industries looking at how we take this artificial intelligence as we call it and put her to work in insurance, put her to work in a customer service center for a large media company, put her in a bank actually dealing with wealth management and interfacing with high-end user clients. We’ve tried to very much and very purposely look at if we can inject this virtual employee in every vertical industry. So far, the answer is yes.

Amazingly, what’s been stunning to us is the companies that we thought would be conservative and risk-averse have actually been the most aggressive in trying to utilize this artificial intelligence in their business. Why? Very simply, they need to change the cost structure of provisioning the service to the end user. At the same time, they need to elevate the quality of that interaction. As more and more web-based services are out there and customers are, more and more, used to the inquiries and interacting of the web environment, these companies believe that there’s step up from that kind of environment.

This is the way they believe they can do it complete with an avatar that is very personable, fed with not only the skill sets that we just described, but also has the ability to reflect emotion as well. Emotion is actually embedded. This is a very important part of why artificial intelligence will succeed. Again, it goes beyond the IVR experience with an airline industry. This is a chance to basically interact with a computer that has been made human. In that interaction, you will have a feeling that you just finished having a conversation with a human.

Sramana Mitra: I have two questions. First and foremost, I would like to understand the competitive landscape. There are other players who are doing intelligent agents of the kind that you’re talking about. Some of them are doing it in a vertical. Some of them are doing it like you with a horizontal engine and then customizing vertical solutions on top of that. How do you see the ecosystem? How do you see the competitive landscape?

Jonathan Crane: Let’s talk about the major players. We’ll start there and go further. If you think about Watson and think about what Watson does, it’s really a capable statistical engine. It’s basically taking massive inputs of data and being able to do what humans don’t have the ability to do – processing that massive amount of data and coming across with good statistical probability for the right answer. If you want to cure cancer, this is an absolutely tremendous tool. Watson is trying to cross over from that and do far more. Google is currently driving with their brain. They’re doing some very interesting work with their artificial intelligence. Siri, as you well know, is a secretarial assist for a device. They’ve done some work in that regard. Taleo comes to mind very quickly. If you go on the IT of website, you’d be able to interact with Ask Anna.

As you ask Anna certain questions, she does word searches on those conversations. Those word searches could put you in a rabbit hole however when you say to her, “Show me dining room furniture.” You’ll see dining room furniture. Then you’ll say, “Don’t show me dining room furtniture.” You’ll see dining room furniture. If you get emotional about it and say, “I don’t like dining room furniture,” you’ll get dining room furniture. With some of the technologies that are out there, you’re going to get a limited ability for this avatar or intelligence response system.

Again, let’s stress what we’re dealing with here. We’ve been able to combine machine learning, semantics, sentiment analysis, natural language processing, neuro-ontology, first-order logic. Some of the best minds from all universities come together and we’ve integrated their contributions so that we basically have the only one that’s really mapped out the neocortical mapping of the human brain. We basically have built a capability that learns like we learn. Going from a kindergartener who knows nothing to a PhD based on the ability to observe and scan information in. This virtual employee is able to do it in more rapid time than anything else that’s out there.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Artificial Intelligence: Jonathan Crane, Chief Commercial Officer at IPSoft
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