July 13th, 2011, 08:17 AM
SMS contextual response software
I am looking for software already developed (that I can buy or license) that has logic to receive plain language requests and respond with the appropriate answer, all via text messaging. Originally, the solution I had spec'd was a system based on a pre-determined syntax (where the syntax was essentially the logic to return the proper result), but now I need a full contextual understanding solution. If a user sends a text message that says "Is ABS available on Car A?" or "What's the difference in MPG between Car A and Car B?", the system is smart enough to figure out what they're asking, and return a text back with a relevant result.
I've looked at systems derived from IVR, but nothing that does exactly what I need. Keyword search might be an option, but the library of keywords would need to be enormous to handle the requests.
July 13th, 2011, 09:06 AM
IBM is working on software that can do this. It's called IBM Watson. If you Google around you should be able to find videos of it playing Jeopardy on TV. It's accuracy is actually pretty amazing, although sometimes it does fail spectacularly at understanding questions.
In order to answer a single natural language question in under 3 seconds, it requires 2,880 3.5Ghz processor cores, 16 Terabytes of RAM and 4TB of storage space. IBM Watson will be available commercially, but will cost in the millions of dollars initially. (The hardware also costs in the millions of dollars). So if you have 3-5 million dollars to spend on this then you'll be able to have a full contextual understanding solution, otherwise you're going to have to settle for something significantly less intelligent.
This is literally the only solution on the market (actually the only solution that has ever been programmed) that provides anywhere near "full" contextual understanding of English questions. Contextual understanding is an extremely difficult ability to give to a computer, as the hardware specs for Watson indicate.
Your best bet is to revert back to a pre-determined syntax.
A keyword search will only work well if your question domain is very limited. For example, if it only needs to handle car related questions asking about features or information about a particular car or comparisons between particular cars then you might be OK with just a keyword search. If it needs to be more general though, then I doubt a keyword search will provide the accuracy you need; especially when the answer needs to be limited to the size of a text message (meaning the computer system needs to be more precise in its answer).
July 13th, 2011, 10:09 AM
I sort of figured that would be the case. Many companies are promising that type of solution, but in reality are very thin.
I wondered if having a live person on the other end of the text would be better...that way, there's much less risk having a computer mis-understand what the person is asking. The cost of that "help desk" is high, but not as high as buying Watson for a cool $3M.
Even if we built a smart keyword-driven solution, the logic is going to be pretty limited...which is why I proposed the syntax-driven solution in the first place.