I had the opportunity to chat with Nirmalya De from ASK-ZIGGY about their natural language understanding service, exposed through an API, which has recently been mashed up with a Telecom API, Tropo. The mash-up means any business can add a customized and optimized Siri-like natural language interface for its customers or employees, at a fraction of the cost alternatives.
ASK ZIGGY is a natural language understanding (NLU) service that allows businesses to quickly and easily add natural language as to their applications and services. Say you’re a local pizza delivery service, you provide ASK ZIGGY with some example phrases your customers would use such as “I’d like a pizza” or “I’m hungry and want something spicy” and they will create the NLU dialogue for your service. This defines the common actions and entities, and it’s not limited to speech, text can be used as well, it’s about natural language – what we use almost every minute of our waking lives.
Companies like Nuance charge hundreds of thousand if not millions of dollars for the professional services to set up this type of service. With ASK ZIGGY business pay around or less than a cent per transaction through the ASK-ZIGGY API. Both Siri and Google Now try to solve generic voice based personal assistant problems, which is difficult. ASK-ZIGGY uses context to vastly improve the performance of the service, so small and medium sized business can now take advantage of NLU to improve their customers’ and employees’ lives.
Recently, ASK-ZIGGY integrated with Tropo so they can offer a one-stop-shop service, of combining communications (voice and SMS) with their natural language understanding service. Nirmalya explained, “We selected Tropo as they have the best communications APIs available and are very supportive of our mash-up. We need a partner that we can trust, rely upon, and is easy to work with in building new propositions. We’re able to run our scripts on the Tropo server, so in a matter of 20 minutes the service was operational.”
This is a trend I’m seeing more and more as telecom APIs mature, they become embedded within other services that are expose through APIs. The mash-up of ASK_ZIGGY and Tropo is a great example of the power of combining APIs to offer businesses simple to consume services. Take for example a local Pizza delivery business again: it signs up for the API, they send through some common phrases, and get a number for automated ordering. So customers can now speak or text using everyday language such as:
- Customer, “I’d like a spicy pizza”
- ASK-ZIGGY, “Would you like Fra Diavolo or The After-Burner?”
- Customer, “I think we’ll go for a couple of large Fra Diavolos.”
- ASK-ZIGGY, “Two large Fra Diavolos will cost $22:50 and will be delivered in 15 mins to <address on file for that phone number>. Is that OK?”
- Customer, “You bet!”
How many times have you hunted for the pizza menu that is trapped at the back of the drawer, with NLU you can just ask. Context is so important, if they’re a regular customer, you can infer from the phone number and day of the week what their likely order could be, we really are creatures of habit. No scanning through pages of ordering options online, or the inevitable ordering error from a part-time person answering the phone to take orders.
I asked Nirmalya where they plan to take the joint offer, he explained, “Tropo WebRTC is exciting, as it makes voice possible over the web, and with higher quality voice it will improve the accuracy of voice recognition, so every business can have a customized and optimized Siri-like interface for their customers and employees.”
I asked if Telcos could be a channel to market for this mashed-up service. Nirmalya stated, “We’re just starting to explore the very tip of the iceberg of innovations possible using natural language understanding. Combining Tropo and ASK-ZIGGY is creating a completely new way for businesses to naturally interact with their customers and employees. We think the mash-up of ASK-ZIGGY and Tropo is an obvious choice for Telcos to offer their business customers, it’s a natural extension to the core service of telecommunications.”