26 April 2019
Amazon's smart speaker Echo can tell jokes, read stores and solve problems. Photo: Bloomberg
Amazon's smart speaker Echo can tell jokes, read stores and solve problems. Photo: Bloomberg

Conversational intelligence has vast market potential

We are in an era where we can’t survive without smart devices. The video equipment in my home broke down recently and I struggled to find a solution after reading four handbooks of four different equipment. That’s how conversational intelligence has come into place.

Conversational intelligence services would provide a tailored solution to understanding the situation. Machine learning is at the core of any solution, but massive quality data is a must. Such service can only be provided in a narrow scenario and strong incentive in the early stage.

At this stage, the active involvement of users is critical for data collection and model improvement. One of my friends has done an interesting attempt in China to help girls lose weight through chatting. A robot will chat with users about their workout and diet, and make an analysis of the food they eat. The machine will also encourage or criticize the user based on their performance.

Certainly, it’s not that complicated for a robot to help us reset passwords or chat with us. Robots should be able to provide advice as an expert. To this end, the system has to understand language and details of the issue in order to tackle it.

In the process, the machine won’t just talk with users in texts, but it can also deal with pictures, voice and detect the environment. The machine should also start the conversation. For instance, it should tell users to rest workout time or ask when the user may have free time. The system must have event-handling and trigger functions.

Many might have an idea of the potential business opportunity in smart dialogue. The human emotions are more important than data and artificial intelligence, according to my friend who has created a machine to help girls lose weight.

For example, how to talk with girls and encourage them to stick to workouts and diet plans is part of the regime. My friend also has product manager experience as a data expert. The unique background enables him to get rid of technological restrictions while commercializing features of the new technology.

During my six years in Alibaba, one thing made me so proud — building the product manager culture in the data technology department. My previous department was also renamed data technology and product department. A good product manager is like an excellent movie director who knows well how to make intriguing movies.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 14

Translation by Ben Ng

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Venture Partner of Sequoia Capital China, former head of the data committee and vice president at Alibaba Group.

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