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Can it surpass Duplex by Google?

According to Innovation Enterprise, Alibaba impressed delegates with its AI customer service voice assistant which handle calls for its logistics company Cainiao, during a presentation at the 2018 Neural Information Processing Systems Conference.

The pre-recorded demo call involved the agent asking a customer where he wanted his package delivered. In the back-and-forth exchange, the agent successfully navigated several conversational elements that demonstrated the breadth of its natural-language capabilities, writes Technology Review.

Experts have pointed out that in the space of a 30-second conversation, the voice assistant effortlessly handled three common problems for conversational AIs. The first was interruption, the ability for an AI to react appropriately when interrupted and carry on relaying the necessary information despite it. Next was its ability to respond to nonlinear conversational answers, when a response is not related to the preceding question. Finally, it demonstrated implicit intent – the ability for an AI to read between the lines and infer meaning. These skills are difficult for most modern AI voice assistants to handle.

Technology Review writes that Alibaba’s AI voice assistant can be more advanced than Duplex, based on similar calls Google has demoed.

Currently, the agent is used only to coordinate package deliveries, but it could be expanded to handle other topics. Customer service is a big part of Alibaba’s workload as the company handles up to 50,000 customer service calls a day, so it is very incentivised to perfect this kind of technology.