At the THINK 2018 conference, IBM announced Watson Assistant, a new addition to its cognitive computing platform. This service enables developers to build digital assistants that can interact through conversational user experience.
Watson Assistant is not entirely new to developers familiar with IBM Cloud. It’s an enhancement to an existing service called Conversation. In its improved version, the API supports newer conversational flow combined with natural language understanding.
IBM is not trying to build an Alexa or a Google Home competitor. Instead, it is investing in a platform that helps businesses create Alexa-like experience across mobile, web, wearables and even robotics. Developers will be able to use their favorite wake word to build newer experiences based on natural language. IBM is making the first 10,000 calls free to developers.
Watson Assistant is already in use across multiple Staple retail stores, which is available through the “Easy System.” According to Staples, when a customer speaks into the Easy Button, Watson Conversation works to understand the customer’s intent and entities referenced. It is trained on five intents, or skills: product ordering, product reordering, shipment tracking, checking on reward summaries and processing back-to-school lists from scanned images provided by customers. Entities are office products contained in the company’s vast catalog, such as pens, toner and paper, each of which has its own stock keeping unit (SKU).
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