CES: A Look at Robots, Conscious Computers and Humanity

During CES, Gigaom publisher Byron Reese discussed the ideas in his latest book, “The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the Future of Humanity” with CTA’s Cindy Stevens. Reese’s previous three ages are Language and Fire; Agriculture and Cities; Writing and Wheels. But robotics and conscious computers, said Reese, divide people into two groups. “People like Stephen Hawking see AI as an existential threat,” he said. “Whereas Mark Zuckerberg and others think that’s ridiculous and can’t fathom that point of view.” Continue reading CES: A Look at Robots, Conscious Computers and Humanity

Retailers Adopt Software, Chatbots to Hone Customer Service

To battle Amazon’s ubiquity and customers’ fickle loyalty, some retailers are testing the new Customer 360 software from Salesforce.com and Freshworks to improve their customer service. The software lets retailers build shopper profiles similar to Facebook to better understand what each customer wants and increase the odds that he or she will become more loyal to the retailer in question. Other strategies retailers are employing are the use of improved chatbots and better customer support training. Continue reading Retailers Adopt Software, Chatbots to Hone Customer Service

Microsoft Chatbot Xiaoice Excels at AI-to-Human Engagement

Unlike Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s own Cortana, the latter’s social chatbot Xiaoice (pronounced “Shao-ice”) isn’t constructed simply to answer questions or resolve problems but can also tell jokes, write poetry, and exhibit “empathic computing” abilities. In China, Xiaoice resided on Huawei smartphones and was a weather reader on Dragon TV, a Shanghai TV station. Debuted in China in May 2014, Xiaoice has had more than 30 billion mainly text conversations with 660 million people around the world. Continue reading Microsoft Chatbot Xiaoice Excels at AI-to-Human Engagement

Intel AI Lab Reveals Plans to Open-Source More NLP Libraries

The Intel AI Lab, which open-sourced a library for natural language processing, plans to open-source more such libraries, to help developers and researchers speed up the process of giving virtual assistants and chatbots functions such as name entity recognition, intent extraction and semantic parsing. With new libraries, these developers can also publish research, train and deploy artificial intelligence and reproduce the latest innovations in the AI community. Intel’s first conference for AI developers was held May 23-24 in San Francisco. Continue reading Intel AI Lab Reveals Plans to Open-Source More NLP Libraries

Allstate’s Digital Assistant ‘Amelia’ Now Helps Call Center Reps

Allstate’s AI-powered chatbot, Amelia, continues helping the insurance company’s call center employees solve customer service issues efficiently. Since her original deployment in September, she’s already helped these employees with more than 3 million client conversations, answering questions through an instant messaging platform on employee desktops. In January alone, Amelia helped on 250,000 calls. Allstate and other insurance companies are turning to chatbots to stay ahead of insurance-focused startups looking to compete.

Continue reading Allstate’s Digital Assistant ‘Amelia’ Now Helps Call Center Reps

Startup Simplifies Voice App Development With New Interface

Storyline, a startup founded in September, has launched version 2 of its easy-to-use visual interface designed to help businesses, brands and publishers develop Amazon Alexa skills without the need for extensive coding knowledge. Since 39 million U.S. consumers now own a smart speaker, voice apps are needed, and Storyline hopes that its simple drag-and-drop solution will help foster that growth. The company refers to its approach as the “Weebly for voice apps,” drawing a comparison to the popular, easy-to-use, website-building platform. Continue reading Startup Simplifies Voice App Development With New Interface

Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

After top Google and Facebook executives met with French president Emmanuel Macron, the tech companies vowed to invest artificial intelligence resources in that country’s capital. Google will create a Paris-based AI lab focused on research into automatic learning, language and computer vision. Facebook, which already has created an AI lab in Paris, plans to double its 50-person team there by 2022 and spend 10 million euros ($12.2 million). Both companies also pledge to train that country’s citizens on digital tools. Continue reading Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

Google Project Aims to Use AI to Develop More AI Algorithms

Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean, who works on the Google Brain team, recently highlighted AutoML (for machine learning), a project aimed at using AI-empowered machines to build other AI machines, removing humans from the equation. The need for AI algorithms grows as its capabilities are becoming important to a wide range of industries. But only an estimated 10,000 people worldwide have the education, expertise and ability to construct those algorithms, and Facebook, Google and Microsoft pay millions of dollars for them. Continue reading Google Project Aims to Use AI to Develop More AI Algorithms

LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

LINE, known for its popular WhatsApp-style mobile messaging platform, has released a $125 smart speaker in Japan named Clova Wave, beating Amazon and Google to market. LINE has more than 220 million messaging users in the region. The company first announced the speaker device at a conference in June, after unveiling its new digital assistant, Clova. LINE also earlier announced a smart speaker called Champ, based on the LINE Friends characters, but no release date was revealed. LINE is a subsidiary of Naver Corp., South Korea’s largest web operator and search portal. Continue reading LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

Facebook Builds Video Chat Device, Refutes ‘Scary’ Bot Tale

Facebook is developing a video chat device for the home that features a touchscreen the size of a laptop’s screen and smart camera technology. The device, in prototype form and being tested in homes, is the first to emerge from the company’s Building 8 lab, and, says chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, is aimed at bringing Facebook users closer. Elsewhere, Facebook squelched a widely reported, hyped-up story that it shut down “creepy” chatbots that were communicating with one another. Continue reading Facebook Builds Video Chat Device, Refutes ‘Scary’ Bot Tale

Facebook Rolls Out Menus to Simplify Use of Messenger Bots

Facebook is updating its Messenger platform to make it easier for users to interact with bots. The interface now has a nested menu that categorizes all of the bot’s capabilities. Facebook also created a new option to allow developers to hide the chatting screen so that customers don’t even have to conduct conversations with bots anymore. This update seems to limit the capabilities of bots and future voice-computing software. It arrives as one launch partner of the bot platform is returning to email rather than using Messenger for customer notifications. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out Menus to Simplify Use of Messenger Bots

HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

The Android and iOS app stores have been dominant in gaming, but the advent of HTML5 may change that up. Developers will be able to create instant games, which they hope will grab the attention of more consumers. Games based on HTML5, which run in a browser and don’t require a download, are already being built into social media platforms and messaging systems. Instant game advocates argue that apps can be hard to find, require heavy advertising, and have to be downloaded and installed in order to play. Continue reading HTML5 Instant Games Threaten to Disrupt the App Store Model

AT&T Unveils Atticus Chatbot to Answer Questions About TV

AT&T just unveiled its new Facebook Messenger chatbot, dubbed Atticus, that’s full of interesting trivia about a range of broadcast television programs, including “Modern Family,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “American Horror Story,” “Pretty Little Liars,” and “The Office.” Described by AT&T as a “goofball,” Atticus has been known to say, “If the Dunphy family is looking for another kid, I’d be happy to join them. I’d be no trouble. Especially since I don’t physically exist. We’d be a real ‘Modern Family’.” Continue reading AT&T Unveils Atticus Chatbot to Answer Questions About TV

CES: From Learning to Thinking Machines – the AI Explosion

Artificial Intelligence is finally here. After nearly 50 years in the doldrums of research, the science of designing “thinking machines” has jumped from academic literature to the lab, and even from the lab to the store. This is largely because its precursor, machine learning, has been enjoying a dramatic revival, thanks in part to the commoditization of sensors and large-scale compute architectures, the explosion of available data (necessary to train advanced machine learning architectures such as recurrent neural networks), and the always burning necessity for tech companies to find something new. We expect AI to have a significant presence at next month’s CES in Las Vegas. Continue reading CES: From Learning to Thinking Machines – the AI Explosion

Google Tools Encourage Developers to Create More Chatbots

Alphabet recently unveiled a system of tools called Conversation Actions, designed to help developers create chatbots that work with Google Assistant. The move is the latest by Google to compete in the emerging digital assistant space with companies such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook that are investing heavily in artificial intelligence. Google’s virtual assistant “is the strategic centerpiece of an effort to keep its lucrative Web search business relevant in an age of mobile devices and wearable gadgets,” reports Bloomberg. “Just like its search engine sent people to the right places on the Web, the company’s assistant should connect users to the most relevant and useful services.” Continue reading Google Tools Encourage Developers to Create More Chatbots

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