Artificial intelligence is all around. Tech giants and start-ups are cultivating their AI technology to create better ways of living such as riding on driverless cars and making payment by scanning your face. While this lies on the grounds that AI’s practical skills can ultimately replace human labour, one start-up believes that AI can be an emotional companion to human.
Shanghai-based start-up Emotibot made an AI-powered bot that can complete practical tasks as well as have a conversation with you. Corporates who want more customer interaction are in talk with the company to source their technology to humanize their online customer service.
“If you talk about artificial intelligence trends in China, a lot of people are doing autonomous driving, face recognition and voice recognition,” said Kenny Chien, founder and CEO of Emotibot. “Natural language understanding is the hardest, and we are doing that. It means the robot has to understand your intention.
Emotibot has an app and you can either type or talk to the chat interface. The AI bot responds by understanding the contexts and emotion of the user. For example, when you say I fought with a girlfriend, then it will ask you what happened, and after listening to your story, it will stand by your side and console you by throwing angry face emoticons to your chat interface. The AI bot can also deliver sarcastic tones like, “Oh, I’m not surprised she did that.”
“We want robots to bring value in your life,” Kenny says. “Since the human life consists of personal life and commercial life, we decided to focus on their commercial problem first. We need to understand what a person needs.”
That’s why the team’s goal is first to provide an assistance AI bot. The self-learning AI bot can find information that the user needs, book a hotel, do the shopping for you and manage your schedule on your calendar.
Corporations Care About Customer’s Emotions
Currently, companies are looking to adopt Emotibot’s solution to give the impression that they are attached to their customers and deliver service with sincerity. It’s mostly companies that deliver financial service that show interest in their technology. Since last September, the company is talking with companies in financial and security, insurance, bank and internet banks. E-commerce companies, as well as customer service robots, are looking to adopt the technology too. Their partners include China Minsheng Bank, China Mobile, Vipshop, Ecovacs, Ubtech and Ctrip.
“They want to associate emotion with the business and want emotion to play out there for them,” Kenny says, “We want to avoid a mechanical response. We want robots to resonate with the customer just like the movie Her. But it’s not so easy at this point.”
The company just started to provide their solution and said they forecast RMB tens of million sales by the end of this year. The company can think of actually put in breath to it, by putting in human’s voice, like Siri does. Currently, Emotibot is only available in Chinese. In the future, the company is looking to provide more language options.
“Doing AI bot in Chinese is much harder than English. Because of the word break problem in a dialog,” Kenny says.” To make this work, we had to combine deep learning, linguistics and psychology.”
The former partner engineering director at Microsoft started his business inspired by movie Her he watched in 2013.
“When I watched the movie, I was very touched. I believe that AI can influence our life. Since then, I have focused on developing the technology,” Kenny says. “AI has been around a long time after the 1950s. It was 2015 when things seemed to be ready. I had a grasp of what I wanted to do, and I could find AI talents around me. We want to achieve the goal to make a robot like Her.”
The AI company is based in Shanghai (where parts of Her were filmed) and has offices in Beijing, Bellevue, Taipei and Boston.