Talking about conversational AI

Talking about conversational AI

Guest blog | Last updated: 12 March 2019

David Skerrett is a digital consultant and strategist with 19 years’ experience inventing the future of experience, today. David’s innovative and transformative thinking has helped brands such as the BBC, John Lewis, Nike, and Santander thrive in the digital age. 

He has written and contributed on topics such as CX, voice, mobile, e-commerce, AI, transformation, and the future for the likes of Forbes, eConsultancy, eContent,, and has been named a Drum Digerati twice in the last 4 years, a BIMA Hot100 thought leader, and placed 17th in The Drum Mobile top influencers.

As we move ever forward from the eras of steam, to manufacturing to internet to IOT and blurred physical/digital worlds powered by AI, change is the only constant.

One of the landmarks of this 4th industrial revolution is Conversational AI – which is a subfield of artificial intelligence focused on producing natural and seamless conversations between humans and computers, be it via chat bots or voice-based interfaces and smart assistants. Advances and affordability of both software enablers and hardware is leading to a revolution in how we converse with computers and the customer experience of tomorrow. By the way, I discussed conversational AI in a webinar which you can now watch on demand – join me!

Consider these facts:

  • People speak at 150 words per minute and can type 40 words per minute.
  • Out of the 3.5 billion searches performed on Google every day, almost a third of those are voice searches (TheeDesign, 2017).

And these predictions:

  • 50% of searches will be via voice by 2020 according to Comscore.
  • Voice-based shopping is expected to hit $40 billion by 2020.

Two things become very clear: speech is an efficient input method once you’ve retrained your brain to speak the right way to your voice assistant. And conversational AI is going to be massive and change the landscape forever.

From Turing and ELIZA to Alexa and Samantha

Alan Turing famously developed the first test for artificial intelligence, the Turing test, in 1950. His early work with computers then led onto Weizenbaum developing ELIZA the world’s first chatterbot computer interface in 1964. It was an early natural language processing computer programme creates at MIT that mimicked a conversation. It even led to the first instance of a person thinking a computer is a person. Fast forward 50 years and we have Cortana, Alexa, Google and Siri ready to assistant in a very human way. In 2007 CNN reported Apple and Google were working on voice solutions thanks to the progression of speech recognition.

According to Voicebot, Voice assistant technology is present on over 1 billion smartphones, Apple’s Siri is the market leader followed by Google, with teens the heaviest users. The next most popular context is then whilst driving, followed by in the home via smart speakers such as via Alexa.

Today chat bots and voice assistant are starting to automate all sorts of tasks and provide genuine utility. For example, your email can be scanned by an assistant and AI can tell if you have an upcoming flight. This can be added to your diary and a taxi to the airport could be offered and booked. Alexa after CES 2018 was anointed OS of the home and from a home automation perspective it can do some cool things.

Looking into the future, I’m a fan of the Sci-Fi movie “Her” directed by Spike Jonze. In that movie, Samantha is an operating system unique to the user that is so human the main character played by Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with her. Who knows if that is where are heading? But it’s sure that the future of conversation AI will be smarter, more personal, more useful, and more predictive.

On demand webinar for CX leaders

We Need To Talk: Conversational AI in CX

Join CX2030 and David Skerrett as we delve into the power of conversational AI – and show you how you can implement AI for powerful CX conversions at your company.