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Building Virtual Assistants is tough. The work frequently includes some form of AI environment, bespoke servers for custom logic, caching servers and databases that provide dynamic content to your VA, etc. That leads, often, to a development environment that’s quite complex — not something for an iPad, you would think.

But it turns out, that with the help of some very cool apps, an iPad can be a surprisingly effective machine. I’d like to share with you how this seemingly impossible task can be achieved…

As the basis of our VA we can use Rasa, an open source conversational system. Rasa’s training data can be specified entirely in plain text files, which makes it especially malleable to being trained from an iPad (can you see where I’m going with this?) …


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Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

Back in early March, my team at Humanise.AI were asked to immediately evacuate the co-working space that was our base. There’d been a suspected case of COVID-19 in the building and, at that early stage, nobody was taking any risks. Turfed out onto the streets by our blue-gloved (!) hosts, we were left in a state of confusion. Soon after, the UK entered lockdown and it’s fair to say that, ever since, each week has brought further confusion to our lives.

But it’s time for the confusion to stop. It’s time for us to start to understand what’s happening; what COVID-19 might mean to us, to our society and to business. …


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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I’ve witnessed and been part of some difficult and stressful conversations over the past week. COVID-19 is dramatically changing our world and we’re all struggling to process what this means.

Workers in many industries are facing an uncertain future. Those working in or dependent upon airlines, hospitality, restaurants, travel, entertainment, etc have already seen their customer numbers drop off the edge of a cliff. Those customers probably won’t return for many months and these are not industries that have a large financial cushion. If governments don’t put in place significant safety nets, many businesses will fail and jobs will be lost. …


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Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Last week the Humanise.AI team made the decision to become home-workers 🏡 for the foreseeable future.

The co-working space that we use had been dramatically shut last week for a suspected COVID-19 🦠 infection, which turned out to be a false-alarm (phew!).

However, that brush with the virus brought it home to us that we don’t need to be in an office and we don’t need to travel on public transport at this time. Of course, there are benefits to sitting together and we love our co-working space — but those benefits aren’t great enough to outweigh the additional risk at this time. …


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Photo by Julián Gentilezza on Unsplash

It’s a question I sometimes get asked. “Why couldn’t I do this on a website?”, “What is it that a conversational system offers, that a website cannot?” I should confess that if you ask this question, it marks you out as an unbeliever.

So this post is dedicated to all those unbelievers. I hope to convert you in the next few minutes.

I have three simple answers (after carefully inserting a pin into the voodoo doll of the unbeliever) that I commonly offer:

  1. 🤩 We can engage, entertain and retain attention in ways that websites do not.
  2. 😎 We can connect with new audiences in new ways, building a connection with hard to reach groups. …


A confusing array of deeply technical NLP announcements, coupled with a healthy degree of press hype, make it tough to understand what’s happening. Here, I attempt to make sense of things.

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Photo by Clarissa Watson on Unsplash

We’ve seen an exciting array of Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms and technologies announced over the past year – many of which sound incredibly exciting. But should we get excited, or not? This post outlines my findings in a way that, hopefully, anyone can follow. I will try to avoid the intricacies of machine learning models and focus instead on their implications and impact. …


Don’t believe anyone who tells you that chatbots are all about customer service — they can be surprisingly good at sales.

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The prevailing opinion seems to be that the purpose of Conversational Systems (chatbots) is in customer support. But that conventional wisdom might be wrong.

Most (every?) business is driven by sales. Sales is what keeps the lights on. It’s what ensures there’s money to pay employees. Without sales, few businesses (except maybe those funded by Softbank) can survive. Not surprisingly, many businesses have a high degree of focus on sales.

So when our client said to us “our boss wants us to focus on building something for sales”, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise. Nevertheless, our emotional reaction was: “hmm, if this works it could be pretty awesome. …


We’re on the “slope of enlightenment” of the hype cycle and 2020 is shaping up to be an interesting year.

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Photo by Evie S. on Unsplash

As the founder of a Chat technology company, I’ve been in the lucky position to experience first hand the ups, downs and shifts happening around Conversational Systems. For us at Humanise.AI, we closed 2019 by selling £1.5m of accommodation reservations though a chatbot in the space of just a month. It feels that both ourselves, and others, are cracking the “what’s the business value of this stuff” question. …


Our impetus to act is a precious thing that needs to be nurtured carefully.

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Those moments when we have the impetus to do something are precious and fleeting. When 69.57% of online shopping carts are abandoned, it’s safe to assume that we’re all easily distracted.

🚧 Friction kills engagement

At Humanise.AI we built a conversational system that could be accessed through either Facebook Messenger or our own Web Chat system. We thought that choice was good for people and so we added a very simple chooser that allowed them to select Facebook or Web Chat. It was the simplest possible screen — just two buttons. Easy! …


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Why does Brexit stir such emotions? British politics is a traditionally relatively moderate affair, so why this change?

I posit a very simple answer — we’ve all, unknowingly, become members of a tribe. And as with all tribes, our allegiances are emotional, rather than factual.

You might think these tribes are Brexiteers and Remainers. But I think that’s too simplistic an analysis. In many ways it’s an analysis that’s been foisted upon us by those trying to stir up divisions for their own agendas. Those labels are too blunt to represent the complexity of our opinions.

Having studied the opinions and reactions of many friends and acquaintances, I’ve identified seven distinct tribes. Each have strong opinions, but all subtlety different and for different reasons. The logic that drives all of these tribes is sound — even though they have come to very different conclusions. And so we find ourselves with seven groups of equally opinionated people. Even those without an opinion, but who just want the whole thing finished regardless of outcome, tend to express that opinion strongly. …

About

Duncan Anderson

Eclectic tastes, amateur at most things. Learning how to build a new startup. Former CTO for IBM Watson Europe.

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