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Virtually Speaking

Brickmaking and Bricklaying: How to Build Solutions that Change the way Technology Interacts with the World

Posted by Richard Denenny on Jun 19, 2012 12:59:22 PM


Brickmaking and Bricklaying

While much has been written about the benefits of Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs), often overlooked is the underlying process for building one out. How do you achieve a best-in-class solution that utilizes conversational dialogue to help users discover knowledge and accomplish tasks? I think looking at the difference between brickmaking and bricklaying helps answer this question.

Brickmaking and bricklaying are two entirely different disciplines. I liken the underlying engines for language processing to the realm of brickmaking – where the work is done to establish the algorithms for natural language understanding, which is used as input for the development of a human emulation experience.

What many do not understand is that natural language processing engines are only part of the equation – you can build all sorts of engines without achieving the best solution. Providing a great IVA experience requires having people who can craft the fit and finish that allow an IVA to resonate with the audience and drive business results. These are the bricklayers.

These are the people with the experience – the trials and tribulations – of having been through years and cycles of developing IVAs. These are the seasoned veterans who know when to leverage machine learning and how to manage its limitations and its understanding to deliver world-class solutions.

Putting together the best brickmakers in the world will not create a world-class wall, and bringing together all of the best NLP and linguistic experts will not enable world-class human emulation.

This is exactly what has happened with other attempts – clearly, the engines passed scrutiny from a technical perspective, but most have been unfortunate failures. Many have, almost immediately, been “end-of-lifed” because, while anyone can consume the algorithms, they have not established a system for developing IVAs that successfully provide a truly rich experience that resonates with the user.

While some will continue to focus solely on ways to bypass human involvement, bricklayers continue to evolve tools to facilitate human involvement. They do this because they understand that pure machine understanding is not a tractable problem. Anyone who wants to enhance their brand and build an IVA that delivers results needs more than just great algorithms. They also need bricklayers. At Next IT, we are not only proud to offer world-class technology, but we are also very proud of being best in class bricklayers.

Topics: Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVA), Natural Language Understanding, Technology