Conversational AI: The Great Leveler

When the first information technology revolution took place, the advent of the internet created several new opportunities for businesses. It also established the basis for information retrieval with the emergence of search engines from companies such as Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. This was followed by the mobile revolution, which literally put a computer in our hands. The growth of 3G/4G technologies helped in bringing unprecedented access to data.

While mobiles and high-speed internet have helped in significantly broadening the adoption of information technology, it has certain limitations. For instance, users need to have a certain amount of comfort with electronic devices, basic literacy, and a rudimentary understanding of how the device works. It also requires some elementary physical input, such as pressing a button or scrolling through a screen.

The rise of conversational AI

With conversational AI, we are finally breaching the above mentioned barriers and enabling information access to all. Here are some unique features that make it possible:

  • Human-like interactions: With its natural language processing capabilities, conversational AI helps replicate the human element in conversations far more realistically, using text-based or voice-based chatbots. This makes information access seamless irrespective of the users’ level of expertise.
  • Smart speakers and voice technologies: Smart speakers, coupled with the maturing of voice technology, are set to give a fillip to voice-based applications. The growing popularity of devices such as Amazon Echo and Alexa indicates a growing reliance on voice for both information access as well as business transactions.
  • Ambient intelligence technology: The integration of voice, IoT, and AI-based applications helps drive context-based interactions that do not involve complex mobile or web based menu-driven applications.

At Infosys, we have developed Nia Chatbot platform to enable quick development of Conversational User Interfaces (CUI) for enterprise applications at multiple channels like web, mobile, messenger and smart speaker. We have also developed solutions for different business processes such as HR, procurement, order management, payment etc. which help in providing CUI layer for respective business processes and enable easy access to information for users from every demography.

An example would be the Cognitive HR Assistant that Infosys developed primarily for the retail and manufacturing industries to help assist blue collar employees. This solution comprises of conversational UI featuring text and voice, for employees to access key details such as leave balance, leave application, transfer policy etc.

Infosys has also developed the Nia Procurement Assistant which is a comprehensive AI based conversational assistant built to ease the procurement process by ensuring compliance and improving user efficiency. The application learns over time and provides highly contextualized recommendations to the user. It shows insights via analytics, ensures compliance, enables smart process workflows and provides automated support through a conversational interaction with enterprise business systems (such as ERP), e-procurement, supplier portals etc.

Technology that works for all

As conversational AI becomes gains popularity, we are seeing the rise of a completely new class of users who were hitherto ‘below the radar’ as far information technology applications go.

  • Blue-collar workers: While office-workers were quick to catch on to the technology revolution, a large mass of employees in factories, retail organizations, and service industries had little or no formal access to information systems. This limited their ability to access information with respect to understanding employment benefits or doing their jobs better. Conversation AI helps bridge this gap by enabling simple voice and text based chatbots delivered either through mobiles or kiosks at enterprises.
  • People with limited accessibility : By significantly simplifying interactions and eliminating the need to navigate complicated mobile apps, conversational AI has opened the door for people with accessibility challenges, enabling them to interact and get information with ease.
  • Rural penetration: Under-developed and developing economies generally have a huge mass of rural population that is often excluded from the information technology revolution. For instance, a farmer in rural India may not be able to accrue the benefits of real-time information on weather, market prices or expert advice owing to language limitations. Conversational AI in regional languages can help bridge this gap.
  • Age Barriers: Smart speaker technology helps break down the entry barriers for a variety of demographics, from young kids to senior citizens, by enabling natural language interactions with computers.

Technology has emerged as one of the biggest enablers of our time. By breaking down barriers and truly taking information technology to the masses, conversational user interfaces truly level the playing field and enable a new revolution in the information age.