AlphaChat, an Estonian startup building virtual assistants, has developed a chatbot that talks about Estonia in any language possible. We had to investigate further and zoomed in with the company’s CEO and co-founder, Indrek Vainu.
AlphaChat has been developing its conversational chat platform to build virtual customer assistants with Natural Language Processing and deep learning for the last four years.
The company’s Conversational AI platform connects chat data from the product to the existing CRM and data management tool. Also, it connects with existing dashboards, enabling customers to get their questions answered in a second with efficient artificial intelligence technology. “Today, our bots have 250,000 conversations per month with humans,” the company’s CEO Indrek Vainu says.
Their clients include the digital bank Monese in the UK, big Baltic telecoms like Tet from Latvia and Telia in Estonia, and the Estonian Statistics Agency, LHV Bank, and Tallink, the largest passenger and cargo shipping company in the Baltic Sea region. In a nutshell, the client threshold starts with companies who have +100K customers and significant communication needs.
That brief – hundreds of thousands of customers and significant communication needs – certainly fits the upcoming EXPO 2020 in Dubai. The Estonian expo page is a prelude to the pavilion – and AlphaChat multilingual bot that introduces Estonia in all the world’s language is a central figure in both.
“The bot’s core idea is to help promote Estonia globally. It has been taught to understand a certain general assortment of information about Estonia – from location to population to nature and taxes, etc. – and it will talk to you about it in any language even though it is trained only in one language,” Vainu describes.
He says that this is a unique capability that their platform provides.
Estonia EXPO Pavilion’s Commissioner-General Daniel Schaer is happy about the collaboration with AlphaChat. “They have built a very special bot for us that will be introducing Estonia and our pavilion to all our virtual visitors from around the world… and in their language!”.
Bots are like wine – they get better with time
“If you have used Siri, Alexa, or Google Home, you know that they aren’t exceptionally smart but that you can use them for getting useful information about certain things,” Indrek Vainu says. “So when you think of our platform, then it is something where you can build your own Siris and Alexas.”
Although bots get to be as smart as they are taught to be. “They are like wine that gets better with time,” Vainu says.
The logic of this multilingual bot works as follows – at first, the bot identifies what language it was addressed in, then converts the phrase or question into English, determines what it was asked about, and then replies in a language spoken to in the beginning.
The key differentiator with the bot is that it is built on the AlphaChat product only in one language, but when deployed live, it can chat with users in any language. This innovation eliminates the need to create a new bot for each language. Now companies can build the bot once and have it automatically available in all languages.
Right now, the bot gets “talked” to in the chat window through typing. But once the physical Expo starts, the pavilion will have a bot that the visitors will talk to through speech. This, of course, adds another layer of complexity.
Lead-generator and stats-aggregator
The Expo2020 will take place for about a year. What will become of this polyglot bot after the event?
“All the content that we create and train for the bot to know can be used during future expos. It is currently already gathering contacts and leads, and it will continue doing so after the expo as well,” Vainu says, adding, “Plus it will give us interesting statistics about the specific interests of different nationalities and whether they vary a lot for example.”
The AI isn’t going to rule over humans any time soon
Vainu co-created AlphaChat and started operating in the AI world for a straightforward reason. “People are living their lives on Messenger, WhatsApp. 95% of what you use your phone for is some sort of chat. But most companies are still in the non-messaging world and want their customers to call or email them. We help bring them where the actual “party” is.”
Vainu says he likes to think of chatbots as an augmented sales team or customer service.
“It can take care of more simple, repetitive tasks like answering how many megapixels the new iPhone has, where your parcel is or how to change your booking,” Indrek Vainu says. And once you have had an experience where your burning questions get solved quickly by a chatbot, you start expecting the same type of service comfort from other service providers and retailers. Additionally, bots work 24/7, they are timezone-free, and they are also neutral – even the calmest person can lose it one day, but a bot – never. Nor do they pass judgment.
We finish our talk on a somewhat philosophical note. Vainu says that working daily with artificial intelligence has made him understand how incredible the human brain is and how hard it is to replicate it. So, no, the AI will not be taking over the world any time soon. “One day perhaps, but right now, it is still very far away,” he says.
communications manager at the e-estonia briefing centre