What is the first image that crosses your mind when you hear the term AI? It may be the Will Smith movie. It may be that your mind jumps to the horrifying Ex Machina. But ultimately forms of AI are beginning to permeate our daily life in the form of personal assistants like Siri and Alexa.

Amazon at it again. Not content with their groundbreaking Alexa technology, Amazon is again at the forefront of technology with their work on their upcoming chatbot. It will work as a customer service unit and the AI is meant to be capable of totally original dialogue and in real-time.

Of course, chatbots are not a new concept. Many websites already take advantage of them, but they tend to be pretty limited. The standard chatbots just look for keywords so often their responses are far from helpful. However, this new technology represents a real breakthrough in AI language generation.

The machines aren’t quite taking over. While Amazon has talked up its latest tech, it has no immediate plans to replace its human staff. At first, the AI will aid existing customer service staff. But as it develops it may well make a manned customer service team redundant.

The retail giant is also working towards a consumer-facing version of the chatbot that is designed to deal with customers directly. The tech involved is very in-depth and uses a complex neural network in order to generate responses that would aid customers directly.

It is a bold and exciting project and represents a breakthrough in the technology used in the consumer industry. It is thought that unleashing their technology into an environment where the AI interacts with human beings will only allow it to grow and develop into something far more impressive.

The project takes advantage of state of the art systems such as OpenAI’s GPT-2. It will also rely on a massive dataset and predicting protocols in order to mimic human speech and deliver super realistic responses in the form of dialogue.

Jared Kramer, who is the applied science manager at Amazon’s customer service team had this to say:

“It is difficult to determine what types of conversational models other customer service systems are running, but we are unaware of any announced deployments of end-to-end, neural-network-based dialogue models like ours.”

While Kramer gushed at the technical advances it is still fair to say that most chatbots are of a pretty poor standard. The majority of them display no true AI and just tend to pick out key phrases and run through a flow chart to display an accurate response. If you have used one you will likely know how clunky this process can be.

There are programs that have attempted to be more ambitious. Take for instance Microsoft's DialoGPT. This application is far more advanced than the chatbots commonly used by companies. While it is an upgrade in terms of the use of AI it is still quite unpredictable and a long way off mimicking human conversations.

Amazon is hoping that its new chatbot will change the game. A recent research paper has suggested that unlike what has come before it the new technology has a list of potential responses to any questions and will use its neural network to analyse the question and give the most appropriate response, rather than the stock responses often given by commercial chatbots.

Testing is currently underway on the tech and comprises two elements. The first is processing refunds and the second-order cancellations. Kramer claims that the new technology has already massively outperformed previously trialled automated systems. This is great news for the company.

The tests are based on Amazons internal metrics and focus on data that covers more than 5 million conversations. So there is a good chance that when we finally see this chatbot dealing with the public it is going to do well.

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