As the use of voice apps is on the rise, so to is the advancement of artificial intelligence and technologies that improves voice assistants and makes them feel more natural.
That’s why Amazon on Monday announced the general availability of Alexa Conversations, a new tool for developers that will help create more natural-feeling Alexa skills with fewer lines of code. The company says Alexa Conversations is an AI-driven approach to dialog management that enables developers to create skills that customers can interact with in a natural way.
According to a blog announcing Alexa Conversations, the new tool enables customers to use the language they prefer in the order they prefer. Drew Meyer, head of Alexa Everywhere, wrote in the post that conversations are more nuanced than simply understanding words and sentences.
However, building those skills into an AI assistant has proven to be challenging, according to Meyer. The number of possible dialog paths can result in a “combinatorial explosion of states and code.” For example, developing an AI assistant for ordering pizza could require more than 5,000 dialog paths.
”Using slots and intents means hard coding every element, including carrying context through every turn, building a state machine to manage the variables, and accounting for every possible phrase a customer might use,” Meyer writes. “A skill that feels natural can become prohibitively complex to build and maintain, but limiting the skill produces an unnatural interaction that doesn’t fully satisfy customers.”
Alexa Conversations, Meyer writes, bridges the gap between what developers can build manually and the “vast range of possible conversations.”
“You provide a few sample dialogs showing your ideal dialog paths and templates for the APIs you’ll need called, and AI extrapolates the spectrum of phrasing variations and dialog paths for you,” according to Meyer.
“The AI will also take on the dialog state and context management, including carrying context across turns, managing lists, and supporting corrections. Alexa Conversations helps customers experience natural conversations with less development effort, freeing you to focus on creating a quality experience instead of on flowcharts.”
Essentially, Alexa Conversations utilizes numerous AI innovations to better understand humans so developers don’t have to spend countless hours creating the code to define various intents. With Alexa Conversations, a chatbot can predict the next steps in the dialog based on the entire conversation’s history and the capabilities of the developer’s API, Meyer writes.
“It can take action to drive the conversation forward, such as confirming inputs, eliciting missing information, retrieving information through an API call through your skill, or gracefully following the customer’s direction,” Meyer writes. “Alexa Conversations uses AI to do the heavy lifting to create language and dialog path permutations, then manages the conversational elements for you.”