May

Microsoft AI products

                                                 

Microsoft product strategy has always been and still remains that of ‘zero alternative’. Their ultimate policy is for their customers to have no choice but to embrace only Microsoft products. Consequently they created and are offering products and solutions in (almost) every segment of IT enterprise and consumer market, including, but certainly not limited to, their own data base, their own cloud services, operating system, office tools, programming language, and many more.

Not only do Microsoft offer wide variety of products, they tie them up together in a unified ecosystem that makes it easy for components to connect and interact. At the same time, this ecosystem is hostile to non-Microsoft products.

Microsoft strategy for the burgeoning, fast growing AI segment is similar:

Create products to address all parts of the AI market, add them to the ecosystem to ensure easy compatibility from within and difficulty of use from outside.

Currently the products on offer are:

- Microsoft AI engine, called LUIS. It is supposed to compete with other major industrial AI systems such as IBM Watson, and has similar training methodology. It offers webhook interfacing via endpoints.  

- Microsoft chatbot building platform, called, surprisingly, Microsoft Bot Platform. It addresses the popular demand for easy chatbot design and provides seamless connectivity with main user interfaces, such as web interface, SMS, mobile, and messaging platforms.

- In addition Microsoft offers their own messaging platform in Skype.

The main advantage of  using Microsoft AI products is the built-in connectivity with user interfaces.

The main disadvantage is in their ‘zero alternative’ policy - once you’ve chosen a Microsoft product you are likely will be forced to choose only Microsoft products for the duration of your project.

 

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CHATBOT PLATFORMS. How to choose the right one?

   
Chatbot platforms are essential tools if you need to build and run a chatbot.
There are many available on the market, big and small, popular and not so much.

Here are some useful thoughts that should help you navigate the complex world of chatbots and conversational AI solutions.

All chatbot platforms can be split into two categories: those that let you create chatbots without any programming, and those that require programming. Now, the idea that you don’t need to possess technical knowledge to build a chatbot seems appealing but the reality is not so rosy. In fact, I have yet to see a professional chatbot created without coding.
Chatbots rely on sophisticated algorithms and advanced knowledge of linguistics. These technologies are so complex that at the moment there are no plug-and-play solutions available. The companies like Chatfuel, Manychat, Flow XO and many others are attempting to fill that void and offer chatbot platforms that are simple in use. The best way to make the chatbot creation simpler is by dropping the need to code them. However this simplicity comes at a price: chatbots made without coding are limited, rigid and in general, primitive.
So to summarize: if you want to impress your girlfriend use Chatfuel. If you need a professional chatbot that delivers on your business goals and provides customer satisfaction use advanced chatbot platforms with programming capabilities.

One of the main, if not the main, tasks of the chatbot platforms is to connect your chatbot to the user interfaces. There are many ways for your chatbot to interface with the world: on Facebook messenger, on the website, on the mobile app, via SMS, on Twitter , on Skype, on Slack, on Telegram, and more. A good chatbot platform should seamlessly connect the chatbot to most of these channels. Chatbot platforms do not make your chatbot smarter. For this you need AI Engines (brief disucssion on AI Engines: http://nmodes.com/entry/2018/03/29/what-are-ai-engines-and-how-choose-one/).

For best results create your chatbot on a chatbot platform, then connect it to AI engine.

One of the top chatbot platforms on the market is Microsoft Bot Framework. It is robust, powerful, with a wide variety of useful functionality built-in. Another good chatbot platform is DialogFlow. DialogFlow has a slightly different architecture in the sense that it is a chatbot platform and an AI Engine all in one interface.

Chatbot platforms can be used to create conversation flow for your chatbot. There are several schools of thought here: some prefer to delegate conversation flow to AI engines. Chatfuel and other tools with the emphasis on simplicity (build your chatbot in minutes, no coding necessary) offer easy graphical interfaces for conversation flow creation. And there is always a reliable option to create conversation flow in an old-fashioned way, programmatically.

Which option to choose? Depends on your chatbot requirements and the business needs the chatbot is expected to address.And if you have questions feel free to ask: http://http://nmodes.com/contact-us/

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How AI is changing the work landscape

             
           "For better or worse, robots are going to replace many humans in their jobs,” says analysts from BBC, and the coronavirus is speeding up the process. Consumer preferences are evolving and recently consumer behavior demonstrates that we as a society have become more tolerant accepting of using automation in our daily routines. 

             In the professional workspace, most if not all companies have moved towards working from home. Given the unprecedented times, recruitment, the employees management, and the corporate governance processes and communication have moved online. As a result of pandemics many companies are experiencing hiring freezes, but many others have moved their recruitment efforts online. A few companies have begun piloting recruitment with the help of artificial intelligence. They are now leveraging AI to conduct online interviews and assessments and deliver data back to the employer. Now more than ever, companies are realizing the importance of moving towards a remote-friendly workforce. Being able to scale human capital on a larger scale online has definitely been accelerated recently. 



             I know for myself, as a current student who recently had their internship offers rescinded due to COVID-19, I’ve put myself back into the market. I’ve seen both small businesses and corporations utilize screening questions, video pitches, and unique riddles to test students’ critical thinking and how they fit into the company culture. This experience in itself has been revealing – after so many years of in-person interviews to suddenly having to emulate the same energy online or via video. Given the adjustment, at times it definitely felt unnatural to sit in front of my computer camera and pitch myself or answer video questions. However, going forward, I can see how automation and online platforms will become more explored given the time it saves and the bias it could remove during the recruitment process. 


            Yet it is not just a change in the recruitment process that we are seeing. The customer service environment, as I have seen first-hand, is under large stress. One of the first calls I had made was to an online retailer, to try and put in a return order. What seemed to be an idea that everyone else had as well, I was put into a queue that lasted more than 30 minutes. After hitting that 30-minute mark, I gave up and put off the task for a later date. Now, a month later, more and more companies are adopting chatbots and artificial intelligence into their customer service processes. These companies are beginning to provide information in a more efficient manner, and with less human capital.

            Moving forward, in the next few months and post-COVID-19, it would be interesting to see which companies are focusing more on their digital transformation efforts. I believe that a larger number of universities and educational institutions will partner with tech companies to help digitize their working environments. And private businesses will continue to implement some of the already existing practices and produce products that cater to the remote working lifestyle and online interactions.

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