The TRAG is beginning to look outside of our traditional view and as part of that, the Cloud and Integrations work group will be looking at emerging technologies.
This blog begins to look at Oracle's Digital Assistant, the next generation of the simple chatbot. Digital Assistants are driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and can access multiple functionalities (known as skills).
So what is the Digital Assistant and how does it differ from a simple chatbot ?
You can think of a chatbot as capable of a single skill, in a targeted conversation, probably through a native mobile application. The Digital Assistant is more like a concierge service accessed via popular messaging applications or voice (think Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Echo) capable of natural language, able to access multiple skills and able to maintain context should the skill context change.
For instance, a simple use case would be to transfer a payment to a friend. The Digital Assistant accesses the “transfer funds” skill and might ask from which account. The user may need to switch context to find out the balances of said accounts. The Digital Assistant switches to the "get balances" skill and then, crucially, is able to return to the original intent of transferring money once those balances are relayed back to the user. In this way it can intelligently combine multiple skills into a naturally flowing conversation whether by text or voice.
This is a significant improvement over the capabilities of simple chatbots who might only be able to transfer money or retrieve balances and certainly in early iterations could not maintain state between these contexts.
Clearly, an important piece in this puzzle is the need for the Digital Assistant to be able to orchestrate multiple skill bots and route user requests correctly. This is where AI is leveraged and it is very powerful. It comes as part of the subscription and requires no code. It can even deal with unexpected inputs, returning to the initial conversation intent when appropriate.
You can add your own skills to the Digital Assistant and Oracle continues to add new skills to all of their Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings and expect to see skills added to PeopleSoft in the future as well.
The Digital Assistant also includes analytics which essentially show you how successful your users conversations are. This includes the success rate of intents and pathing.
If you would like to learn more there are some links we hope you find useful:
In addition there are a number of HEUG vendors who provide Digital Assistant capabilities such as Intrasee and Cherryroad. Other cloud vendors outside of Oracle include google, IBM Bluemix, Cognigy, Rulai and dashbot.io.
An important final point is that a key consideration when looking at this technology is that it is a reasonably new space in the market which is rapidly evolving. It would be wise therefore, even when choosing a vendor, to keep a weather eye on the marketplace so as not to “put all your eggs in one basket”, a view supported by Gartner recommendations.