This week James Vlahos published a piece in Wired offering a behind the scenes look at the Alexa Prize and those who participated. Inside the Alexa Prize is both a great read and a good non-techy introduction into the challenges of designing truly conversational machines.
I posted a piece on LinkedIn about Vlahos’s article, along with my own thoughts about the quest for conversational AI.
Vlahos makes a distinction in his article between two different approaches to creating conversational AI. One approach is by handscripting prompts and responses. The other approach is to generate dialogue automatically using machine learning algorithms. The entrant that won the competition, the University of Washington, used a combination of both approaches.
At Tellables our aim is to create new types of interactive conversational experiences that engage, educate, and entertain. We’re not designing freeform chit chat experiences. Instead, we’re constructing conversations that are structured more like games, but that still retain a conversational flow. The aim is to get you to feel as though you’re talking to a clever friend, and that friend has set up a fun challenge for you that you’re trying to master.
Interactive story games might be somewhat artificial constructs, but they could become a piece of the puzzle in equipping conversational AI with the tools to engage people more meaningfully for longer periods of time.