Alibaba already has a voice assistant way better than Google’s

On December 2 at the 2018 Neural Information Processing Systems conference, one of the largest annual gatherings for AI research, Alibaba demoed the AI customer service agent for its logistics company Cainiao..On stage, Jin Rong, the dean of Alibaba’s Institute of Data Science, said the agent was already servicing millions of customer requests a day..The demo call involved the agent asking a customer where he wanted his package delivered..Take this exchange at the beginning of the call, translated from Mandarin: Agent: Hello, I am Cainiao’s voice assistant..The nonlinear conversation occurs when the customer asks, “Who are you?” This requires the agent to register that the customer is not answering the preceding question but rather starting a new line of inquiry..That Alibaba’s voice assistant can do so suggests it’s more sophisticated than Google Duplex, judging from similar sample calls demoed by Google..Alibaba is also developing digital assistants for other aspects of its business, including a food-ordering agent that can take your order in noisy restaurants and stores; a humanlike virtual avatar that can field questions about Alibaba products; and a price-haggling chatbot that is already used by 20% of sellers on Alibaba’s resale platform Xianyu.. More details

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