The sinking feeling of calling a help line and discovering that there’s a robot at the other end may not be as sinky in the future. IPsoft’s "virtual service-desk employee" Amelia is designed to bring advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to help desks and other interactive operations by engaging callers in more intuitive and natural conversations.
Named after American aviator Amelia Earhart, Amelia is the result of 15 years of development by New York-based IPsoft and is intended to do the work of a human online assistant, but with a much shorter training period. The AI system is programmed to interact with phone callers using natural language instead of having them adapt their behavior to suit the system. According to IPsoft, Amelia adapts to various business procedures and is programmed for 20 languages.
Instead of imitating the human brain, Amelia concentrates on the task of understanding and responding to spoken language by using algorithms to employ context, logic, and inference to determine the meaning of what is being said rather than responding to key words and phrases. By building relationships between facts, it can glean information from existing manuals and other materials to produce its own process map rather than being specially programmed.
In addition, IPsoft says that Amelia can not only analyze speech, but also the caller’s emotions and respond accordingly. It can deduce meanings from loosely composed sentences, learns from experience, has the ability to pose follow up questions when the meaning of a sentence isn't clear, seek answers using the internet and refer the call to a human operator if the problem proves beyond the system’s capabilities.
Though Amelia is aimed primarily at the help desk market, IPsoft also sees the system as useful in procurement processing, financial trading support and as an expert advisor for field engineers in remote location.
"Amelia will allow people to indulge in more creative forms of expression, as opposed to doing routine business process tasks," says Chetan Dube, Chief Executive Officer, IPsoft. "This platform will free us from the mundane, disrupting industries in the way that machines have previously transformed manufacturing and agriculture. We’re going to have to rethink work by redefining existing roles and identifying new ones."