Conversational AI is, as the name suggests, AI
that can hold a conversation with a human being. By being able to respond
intelligently to human questions and directives, conversational AI has numerous
applications, from today’s automated support systems to the theoretical helpful
robots of tomorrow.
Unfortunately, designing conversational AI is
extremely challenging. Human thought processes are unpredictable and human
languages nuanced, posing innumerable challenges for creating software that has
any idea what a user might be talking about. As
anyone who has interacted with a chatbot can attest, the current state of conversational AI can range anywhere from
comically off-point to eerily lifelike to frustratingly useless, often within
the span of a single session. We won’t even concern ourselves with the
challenge of voice recognition.
To help developers in their quest for developing
functional AI, Microsoft has recently released two separate but compatible
tools aimed at overcoming some of the obstacles inherent in conversational AI.
The first of these tools is Microsoft
Azure Bot Service. This service is geared towards developers who
have worked out the essence of their AI and wish to bring it to the user. Even
the best AI is useless without an effective UI, and Azure Bot Service provides
an environment where conversational bots can interact with users. The service
functions as a kind of “brain” for the AI that interprets the user’s inputs and
provides a crucial framework for the AI to use when formulating its response.
Being able to adapt this framework across multiple devices and channels makes
this an invaluable aid for AI development.
The other Microsoft tool is the Microsoft
Cognitive Services Language Understanding (LUIS). LUIS provides the core of an AI’s “thinking” ability, allowing
an AI to process inputs and make the appropriate responses. LUIS brings support
for English, French, Spanish, and Chinese, with tools for developers to
customize their AI libraries in these and other languages. With this, the first
step to having an AI that can understand its users is readily available, and
combined with the Azure Bot Service it becomes an even more useful resource.
AI may or may not be the future of
human-software interactions. But for those who are exploring the field, these
new tools are a welcome addition.