Conversation is the ultimate user interface

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We may be living in a golden age of information, but finding the right information is still a dilemma. To tackle this challenge, my team and I at amazon alexa is building what will be believed to be the next generation user interface that will redefine the way we interact with technology and find information.

We spend hours every day hunched over our phones and laptops. We open and close and reopen applications. We roll. We type on the small QWERTY keyboard. And we click through endless blue links every time we search the web. The internet is really great. The user interface Not.

We accepted these conditions because, since the dawn of the digital age, this is all we know. But these methods of interacting with the digital universe were developed to serve business models, not user experiences. They are designed to increase the amount of time you spend online, increase clicks, and maximize interaction time. But it’s not fair to force people to search for information this way. And it’s time to move on.

Conversation: The old interface

The first step is to change the way we interact with the Internet. And fortunately, recent advances in AI are creating a whole new user interface. In fact, it’s the original interface, the one we’ve been using for nearly two million years. It’s called “conversation.”


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Not words, your mind. We’ve been using it for almost a decade, interacting with phones and digital assistants like Alexa. I’m talking about real, human-like conversation. The kind you might have with a friend when drinking beer, in which vague questions or confusing words are understood. Conversations in which intent is inferred and answers to questions are summarized and personalized.

When two people converse, they understand each other’s context and incorporate visual cues. Conversations can be brief and effective. Or they can cover a variety of topics, change direction, and lead to accidental discovery. Humans do this without thinking about it. But teaching a machine to do this requires significant advances in the science of AI. This is not just about natural language processing (NLP) is improving rapidly with every voice interaction (Alexa alone receives more than a billion requests per week from hundreds of millions of devices in more than 17 languages.)

AI within milliseconds

Instead, let a machine learn the nature of giving and receiving conversation requires a fundamental review of our current information retrieval system, including the ability to crawl billions of web pages in real time (web-scale neural information retrieval), key summaries information from the Web’s vast mass (automatic summarization) and the ability to recognize end-user intent and suggest additional relevant content (using contextual recommendation engines. )

Conversational interfaces require these systems (and many others) to work together seamlessly and instantly. For example, if you ask an AI assistant, “Where is the oldest living tree in the world?” it can not only answer that question quickly and succinctly, but also understands that you are currently just over an hour’s drive from said tree, and follows directions and recommendations for walking trails long distances in the area.

Or if you were watching the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football and asked vaguely, “Who just caught that pass?” it will be able to infer which match you are watching, which team is fouling, who has caught the pass and within how many meters. All within milliseconds.

These are difficult, unprecedented problems. As a result, Amazon has assembled a team of world-class AI scientists dedicated to solving them. We are investing in these resources because we believe these capabilities represent the future of human-machine interaction. And we are not the only ones.

“These give and take interactions build relationships that will shape both the user and the system,” said Hae Won Park, an MIT research scientist. group of individual robots. “Relationship agents can disrupt areas like personal support, healthcare, aging, education, etc. We are only just beginning to realize the benefits of users.”

Towards “ambient intelligence”

Indeed, conversational AI can benefit any company interested in changing the way their customers or employees interact with digital information. And like many artificial intelligence advancements first developed for Alexa — like Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly — we fully expect to make these capabilities available to every company, in every industry. , through artificial intelligence services available on AWS.

The ultimate goal is to shift the burden of retrieving and distilling relevant information from humans to AI. And by bringing this conversational capability into the spaces we live and work in — kitchens, cars, and offices — we can reduce the amount of time we spend looking at phones and laptops. We call this concept “ambient intelligence”, where AI is available everywhere around you, assisting you when you need it and even anticipating your needs, but hiding when you are not. need.

In other words, we can still benefit from the greatness of the Internet while spending less time on it. For business models that depend on small screens, endless scrolling, and a sea of ​​blue links? It’s time for them to adapt to us, not the other way around.

Vishal Sharma is the vice president of Amazon Alexa AI Information.

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