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Panel explores benefits, limits of conversational agents

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“A lot of the current technologies cannot [understand] a non-American accent. … It has to go hand-in-hand with what your technology is able to do.” - Yvette Wohn
“A lot of the current technologies cannot [understand] a non-American accent. … It has to go hand-in-hand with what your technology is able to do.” - Yvette Wohn - ()

A sampling of panelists think bots will not replace human jobs – though they can be awfully useful for simple tasks.

Bots – short for web robots – are apps to assist in automated tasks. The emerging software was discussed in a Tuesday panel at the VOICE Summit at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

Yvette Wohn, an assistant professor of informatics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and director of the Social Interaction Lab, said it’s important to understand customer needs.

“The important thing is to understand how well your technology responds to different situations,” Wohn said. “A lot of the current technologies cannot [understand] a non-American accent. … It has to go hand-in-hand with what your technology is able to do.”

Said Brooke Hawkins, a designer at Nuance who works to create conversational interfaces for Fortune 500 companies: “Larger companies will hire more skilled team members to have more touchpoints on how they can be utilized.”

Justina Nguyen is a developer evangelist at Dashbot and helps integrate advanced conversational analytics.

“Make sure your bot can respond to things like ‘Hi’ and ‘What’s your name?’” she suggested.

And how about this: 19 percent of Facebook Messenger bots get the message, “I love you.”

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David Hutter

David Hutter


David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at dhutter@njbiz.com.

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