Our talk at StartupDay 2017 [VIDEO]

StartupDay this year was a great success with more than 2,500 people attending. Gave a talk on the main stage about how we have built our company and approach AI. Title of the talk “Applied AI – are we there yet?”. For those who are impatient, the answer is yes, we’re already here in certain fields we’re tackling 😃

New customer – Tallink

Glad to announce that we have started working with Tallink on a customer service chat automation project. Tallink (listed on the Nasdaq Tallinn exchange as TAL1T) is the leading provider of high-quality mini-cruise and passenger transport services in the northern Baltic Sea region, as well as the leading provider of cargo services on selected routes.

In 2016 the company had over 9 million passengers, achieved revenue of €938 million and employed more than 7,000 people.

As a result of their recent investment and fleet renewal program, Tallink currently deploys some of the most advanced cruise ferries on the Baltic Sea. The company’s vision is to be the market pioneer in Europe by offering excellence in leisure and business travel and sea transportation services.

Lack of labeled training data for chatbots – our solution for the problem

One of the toughest problems in building bots is the scarcity of available training data. As all machine learning systems, chatbots and virtual customer assistants function best when they have been trained on good quality training data. In the beginning all bots have to be taught what things mean. In the context of understanding what customers want when they contact customer service, this means teaching bots what topics (i.e. intents) do certain questions refer to.

As a simple example, people ask from a bank “I have not received my salary” or “Where is my transfer”. These are seemingly two different types of questions but they refer to the same intent i.e. how long does it take for the transfer to reach from bank A to bank B. To understand those sentences a chatbot needs to learn from data that has been labeled. Meaning a human has to label some questions with the correct intent (“How long does it take …”) and feed it to the bot. With that the bot can learn to generalize based on different questions and match the question with the correct intent.

The challenge is that there are literally a million different ways to ask for the same intent. Language is highly nuanced and personal. To build chatbots with high accuracy one would need tens of thousands of labeled questions to train the bot. This is time consuming and expensive.

To overcome the lack of labeled training data, we have created deep learning based networks that are capable of achieving satisfactory levels of question-intent-matching accuracy even with a few sentences of training data per each intent. It is a way forward for deploying accurate chatbots in a more efficient manner by reducing the need for labeled training data. The video above shows how it works. If you have more interest and questions about the solution, reach out to hello [ at ] alphablues [ dot ] com

Nordic Data Science and Machine Learning Summit Recap

Yesterday our CTO Hendrik Luuk had the honours of presenting at the Nordic Data Science and Machine Learning Summit in Stockholm 🇸🇪 The conference was sold out, which gives a hint to the level of interest in the topic of machine learning in this region. Our talk was titled “Automating customer service chat via AI-based natural language understanding” and in a nutshell we gave an overview and key lessons from building up a customer service chat automation platform with built-in natural language understanding system from ground zero. The key takeaways of the talk were:

  • Human-level language understanding is much more complicated than matching token patterns.
  • Training data is scarce.
  • Customization is the key to good user experience.
  • Automation pays off when volumes are large.

The conference had good technical depth and there were several great presentations. King, the makers of the mobile game Candy Crush, had a very interesting presentation on applying AI in game testing. The approach they have taken is using neural networks to understand human behaviour in gameplay and then run new levels through such trained networks which essentially are able to test human performance in new levels.

It is an interesting approach as most networks, like AlphaGo Zero, are built towards beating humans but with mobile games the goal is to make the game challenging yet enjoyable to humans. In addition, Peltarion had an insightful talk about segmenting brain tumour even with small datasets. It gave insight into how to create algorithms that are able to perform on par with humans.

What I Learned From One Of The Most Interesting Panels On AI I Have Been To

Last week enjoyed an excellent panel discussion at Nordic Digital Business Summit with Alexander Khaytin from Yandex Data Factory, Ville Hulkko from Silo.AI and Olli Ventä from VTT. I have been on numerous panels but this one was one of the most enjoyable ones as the discussion was about where we stand with Artificial Intelligence and where are we headed. Couple of points that are worth sharing:

  • There is a lot of AI hype. Everyone agreed on that. In some ways it is good as the topic rises to consciousness of a lot of people. But mostly it just raises expectations that are difficult to meet. It was agreed that there needs to be a real representation of what is possible and what is not with AI. Especially considering that we have had several AI winters in the past.

 

  • Who is buying AI products. In large companies this today is mostly the Business Development Manager, Innovation Officer or a strategic Product Manager. These people are the visionaries within their companies and are looking for new and beneficial solutions. Target them.

 

  • AI apocalypse. We did a poll in the audience and for the next 15 years no one thought there will be an AI dominated world. So we’re good 🙂 Mostly the understanding was that instead of worrying about what ifs in the next 30 years we need to focus on the current problems and how we tackle those.

 

  • AND MY FAVOURITE TAKEAWAY – there are three important elements that are needed for a successful AI product offering. 1) There needs to be data available. Without data there is not much AI can do. 2) There needs to be enough money to be made or saved with the solution. If you cannot attach a monetary value to your solution then the solution is a nice-to-have thing. 3) There problem needs to be complex enough that simple solutions on the market already today cannot solve it.

 

 

Upcoming conferences where we’ll be speaking

We’re set for a busy next few weeks here at AlphaBlues. Will be speaking at the following events, so if you’re attending stop by and say hello. Would be good to connect.

#1. Botscamp. September 28. Streaming live, no need to travel 😀

botscamp focuses an overview and knowledge exchange about bots – emphasizing the business side . Without the hassle of travelling to the Swiss mountains or somewhere else. A true online conference reflecting the nature of bots in the digital universe. Join this unique engagement at a much higher frequency than traditional events. For free. Indrek was voted as one of the top 13 bot experts in Europe and will be speaking about Customer Service Automation with AI http://www.botscamp.co/

 

#2. Nordic Digital Business Summit, October 5th, Helsinki, Finland.

The Nordics are seen internationally as a hotbed of ICT innovation and sustainability, creating a region of opportunities that drive exports and investments. The Nordic Digital Business Summit has become a platform to facilitate this process and drive opportunities, allowing technology professionals from across numerous business sectors to network with their peers, whilst hearing from global thought leaders on subjects that shape the future of their industry. Indrek will be speaking on an AI panel 15:20. http://www.ndbsevents.com/schedule-speakers/#modal-220

 

#3. ETIS – the Community for Telecommunications Professionals Gathering, October 5-6th, Tallinn, Estonia.

Each year the ETIS Community Gathering brings together European telecommunication professionals to share knowledge and best practices in a trusted environment. The theme of the ETIS Community Gathering 2017 is ‘Shaping the Digital Ecosystem of the Future’. Because of the ongoing digital transformation and newly emerging disruptive technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, IoT, SDN/NFV and 5G, telecom operators need to take important decisions. We will be speaking about AI and chabots in the general track and also in session specific tracks on both days. https://www.etis.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=964478&group=

 

#4. Nordic Data Science Summit, October 19th, Stockholm, Sweden.

The Nordic Data Science is an annual event bringing together the Data Science Community in the Nordics to share ideas, and discuss ways to harness the full potential of Data Science and Machine Learning. The agenda is suited to guide you through the process of extracting knowledge from data by using the latest methodologies, tools and algorithms. Our CTO Hendrik will be speaking 16.00 about NLP and chat automation. He will give an overview and key lessons learned from building up a customer service chat automation platform with built-in natural language understanding system from ground zero – challenges involved in interpreting language, which is just a surface representation of the vastly complex conceptual model every human carries around in their brain. Topics addressed include real world limitations imposed by the chat interface, scarcity of training data and dynamic content of the customer service. http://www.nordicdatasciencesummit.com/#schedule

AlphaBlues selected startup of the week

The leading IT news site in Estonia geenius.ee selected AlphaBlues as their startup of the week. The site had an interview with our team where we discussed a number of things ranging from our company to our product. Some of the more invigorating questions the journalists focused on were around how AlphaBlues is among those one of ten startups that will not go bankrupt. According to Indrek “we already have paying customers and interest in the product is growing. We have put a lot of emphasis on product development and enhancing our artificial intelligence capabilities. More exactly on how the system is capable of understanding human text and meaning from that text.” Full article can be accessed here.

NVIDIA covers our semantic enrichment project in their official blog

Over the past months during this summer we were hard at work on advancing our AI capabilities. We worked with NVIDIA’s latest technology to develop semantic enrichment for chatbots and our work got recently covered in their official blog https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2017/08/29/ai-chatbot/

Typically, a computer processes free text as a sequence of symbols with no apparent relationships apart from the order in which they appear in a sentence. A human, however, understands the semantics. For example, a person knows that in the sentence “my older brother rides the bike,” the brother is a human being, the bike is an inanimate object, the bike cannot ride the brother and so forth.

What we did was feed our virtual assistants with “semantic enrichment inputs” so that the chatbot can fully understand the messages it receives. Powered by deep learning, the virtual assistant will continue to learn as it receives more messages and applies the semantic knowledge it has been provided with.

New customer – IPF Digital

Summer has been a busy time for us at AlphaBlues and we’re excited to announce to start working with IPF Digital. IPF Digital provides fast, flexible and convenient credit solutions to more than 134,000 retail customers in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Australia. In its markets the Company is a leading provider of loans and credit lines to customers with strong credit histories. The company provides a high quality service backed by a sophisticated technology platform, which makes the application process easy and hassle-free.

According to Edgars Kalniņš, the Head of Customer Experience at IPF Digital, “We are glad to start working with AlphaBlues and their artificial intelligence based customer service solution that can help us broaden our capabilities in enhanced customer experience”.

IPF Digital is part of the International Personal Finance Plc (IPF: LSE), a stock listed leading international home credit and digital provider of consumer finance with more than 2.5 million customers worldwide.

Estonian EU Presidency & Microsoft AI event

We were delighted to take part in the Microsoft event about AI in conjunction with the Estonian EU presidency and the first informal Competitiveness and Telecommunications Council meeting of EU ministers under the Estonian Presidency of the European Council. Microsoft and the Estonian government gathered over 150 officials from all European Union Member States, the European Commission and the European Council in Tallinn for an evening reception focused on artificial intelligence and digital transformation stories. AlphaBlues was invited as one of the 4 companies to take part in the event, pitch their solution to the delegates and demo our NLP and AI technology.