Creating Human-Like Conversational Abilities

By Shyamala Prayaga

Your voice interface creation will only be successful if it possesses human traits such as empathy and imperfection. Senior conversational designer Jason Gilbert digs deep into imbuing voice interfaces with human-like conversational abilities in this fascinating episode of The Future is Spoken.  Jason is a senior AI conversational designer based in Israel. He is also the creator of AnnA, the conversational bot. The Importance of EmpathyJason explores so much in this episode, including the importance of imbuing voice interfaces with empathy. He discussed the creation of AnnA, conversational dynamics between humans, and how designers study these dynamics to build human-like interfaces. Jason also talks about his work on the creation of a virtual Albert Einstein.Originally, Jason wanted to be a filmmaker and screenwriter, and studied filmmaking at Temple University College of Liberal Arts. Around five years ago he entered conversational design by accident when applying for an interactive screen writer role. The job title conversational designer didn’t even exist back then. “I just stumbled into it,” says Jason. “All of a sudden I found myself designing dialogues for interactive characters.”One of Jason’s first roles in voice tech was designing chatbot Miss Piggy for Facebook Messenger. “That experience of working on an entertainment project proved to me that this was a new art form,” explained Jason. “Conversation design is a new medium of art that encompasses within it filmmaking, theater, UX design, design, writing, directing, literature, therapy – so many other disciplines come together into one in order to craft a good personality and a good conversation. Conversational Design is an Artform“I realized this is a whole new art form, and I realized that I could really . . . it's the Wild West, it's an open frontier, and there are not that many people doing it. And so I luckily fell into it, and now I'm doing what I love.” This experience and Jason’s passion for conversational design eventually led to the creation AnnA, a companionship bot. AnnA evolved when Jason’s mentor, Yaki Dunietz, CEO of CoCoHub, took it on himself in the late 1990s to crack the Turing Test. Yaki’s fascination with cracking the Turing Test led him to create an intelligent entity or intelligent machine that could pass the Turing Test. “Yaki started a project called Virtual Alan Turing because Alan Turing was his idol. I don't know how much you know about Alan Turing, but Alan Turing is a fascinating, fascinating individual. I mean, beyond the fact that he's considered the father of modern day AI, the guy was a genius,” enthuses Jason. In 2016, Jason asked Yaki about the possibility of turning Alan into a companionship bot. The idea arose because Jason’s parents were moving to a retirement community in Florida and Jason had read a lot about loneliness amongst the aging population and how it contributes to a decline in health. Yaki agreed, and all Jason had to do was update the Alan bot to fit into more modern times, give it a slightly different voice. He and Yaki also decided to make it transgender.Find Jason on LinkedinAnnA, the companion botAn interview with i24News about AnnA’s songJason’s article on bots and overcoming loneliness The Turing TestTechnological Singularity

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