Tag: Chatbots

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AI Data Training Company Appen Sees Increasing Rise in Stock Price

AI

This week, Appen LTD, a global leader in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) data, reported a 6.9% increase in share value — the most in 11 weeks. Appen is of note to the localization industry primarily as a seller of training data that can be used in applications such as machine translation.

The Motley Fool reported last month that Appen has seen a steady increase in share prices since March. The news comes as a boon to the company’s shareholders, who saw a significant drop in prices in mid-February as countries began responding to COVID-19. In spite of this year’s challenges, the company is in the middle of a strong upswing.

Indeed, during one of the price peaks, the founder and the CEO of the company cashed in their shares for a combined $61 million. Since March, the price has increased 99% from its $17.14 low to a high of $34.17. Following a year of immense success in 2019, with a 47% increase in revenue to $536 million, Appen has proven its resiliency during the pandemic.

With over 1 million contractors in over 130 countries and 180 languages, the company studies human speech and interactions with each other and with AI to collect training data that teaches AI models and machine learning algorithms to (theoretically) make good decisions. Its worldwide crowd of contributors paired with its innovative data collection platform ensures premium localization of text, images, audio, video, and sensory content, which has built it a strong reputation in a variety of industries.

Appen claims to be the data industry’s “most advanced AI-assisted data annotation platform.” Working with tech companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Adobe, Appen sells data sets to assist with machine translation, proofing tools, automatic speech recognition, computer vision, semantic search, text-to-speech, virtual assistants and chatbots.

 

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Translation chatbots and the US election

Localization Technology, Multimedia Translation

The Dallas News reported that TV ads in Spanish are targeting Latino voters in this year’s tight midterm races. However, results are “mixed.”

“TV ads on their own are not enough to attract Latino voters. Instead, grass-roots engagement early will be more effective to reach those who do not typically vote in midterm elections,” Jenny Manrique’s article stated.

With political campaigns suggesting that texting young voters can be an effective method for getting the vote out, translation chatbots may actually play a role in this year’s elections. Not because the chatbots themselves are sending messages… people don’t mind real political texts in some circumstances, but they may dislike getting political spam from bots. Potentially, however, having a translation bot aid a real human interaction is a little different. And for the first time in any election, Facebook Messenger is now providing the opportunity for people to have Spanish-English messages automatically translated.

It’s anticipated that 80% of all businesses will use chatbots by 2020. They are now available on almost every platform, and are more intuitive than ever. Nonprofits use them as well, including to interact with voters in Spanish on voter ID laws.

Even though some of the biggest chatbots, like Siri and Alexa, are relatively new, this technology actually dates back to the mid 20th century.

In 1950, Alan Touring theorized that an intelligent machine would be indistinguishable from a human in a text-only conversation. In 1966, MIT Professor, Joseph Weizenbaum invented Eliza, the world’s first chatterbot, which imitated the language of a therapist using only 200 lines of code.

Chatbots have come a long way since then. However, still in its infancy is the translation bot. For a translation bot to be 100% accurate, it must identify innuendos, syntax, grammar and inflection. For this reason, Facebook announced its first translation bot only this year, and it has rolled out only one language pair: English-Spanish, which it’s offering on Messenger to US users.  

Translation bots are not quite there yet. But they are ever improving. This infographic explains where translation bots started and where they are today.

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Rilind Elezaj is an experienced digital marketing specialist in the marketing and advertising industry. He integrates web development and other digital marketing solutions to create hybrid strategies.

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Humor and AI: Does it travel?

Localization Technology, Personalization and Design

Conversational interfaces such as chatbots and voice assistants present many localization challenges — humor, for example. And that’s not even considering if the original content was all that funny to begin with.The secret to AI comedy must be in the data Click To Tweet

Humor: The final frontier

“Are there any Scottish people in the audience?”

Always a great start to a presentation at a conference. The response I received was, “You’re going to show that Scottish Elevator Voice UI video, right?”

I wasn’t.

Instead, I used the top jokes from the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe as my opener to a workshop at ConverCon 18 on the subject of artificial intelligence (AI), personality, and conversational UI.

Of course, humor is an integral dimension of human personality and therefore part of that natural, conversational human-machine dialog. But humor has been called the final barrier for AI for good reason. There are many challenges.

I began my ConverCon workshop by telling the best joke from the Fringe.

“Working at the Jobcentre has to be a tense job — knowing that if you get fired, you still have to come in the next day.”

As soon as I recited the joke, I realized that it may not have been that funny to my global audience. Had they any idea what a Jobcentre is? It’s a British public service. In Ireland, the equivalent, an Intreo Centre, is offered by the Department of Work Affairs and Social Protection. In the United States, it might be called a WorkForce Center or One-Stop Center.

Conversational UI and the secret to comedy

Real US English examples of conversational interfaces, chatbots and AI can be tricky when it comes to humor.

Take this processing message from the Meekan scheduling robot on Slack. It makes a “witty” reference to hacking into TSA servers and No Fly Lists. I really winced at that one. I know what the TSA and No Fly Lists are, and I still didn’t get the joke.

Meekan scheduling robot on Slack (Image by Ultan O'Broin)

Meekan scheduling robot on Slack (Image by Ultan O’Broin)

This got me thinking about the challenges of humor and AI. If the secret to human comedy is timing, then the secret to AI comedy must be in the data, as well as the context.

Humor does have a place in conversational interaction, even in the most seemingly unlikely interactions, for example, Woebot. But humor needs to be done right.

Humor is not only the final frontier for AI, it’s a human personality trait that is easily lost in translation. Worse still, even in the original language, humor is not always that funny to everyone in a native audience. Of course, you don’t have to be Geert Hofstede to realize that humor doesn’t travel across cultures, but machines don’t get that. Yet.

So, as the localization industry rises to the challenge of dealing with AI, personality, humor, and the realization that no UI is the best UI of all, we can expect new talents will flourish to ensure that the conversational user experience resonates with the target audience. Do today’s translators need to have performing arts backgrounds or be comedians to enhance that local conversational interaction? I think storytelling skills are about to become hot property in every language.

Do today's translators need to have performing arts backgrounds or be comedians to enhance that local conversational interaction? Click To Tweet

Your punchline?

You may have other examples of humor and localization challenges from the world of technology. If so, share them in the comments!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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The Irish Language: A Cereal Troublemaker Hits the Gaeltacht

Language, Localization Culture

The semantics of selfies in Irish

I was reminded of the whole Dara Ó Briain (@daraobriain“Sé-Mé” #selfie uproar (a classic case of urban Irish — or Gaeilge, and not “Gaelic” — usage versus the “official” Irish (where “selfie” is “féinín”) when I visited my son in the Gaeltacht (or primarily Irish-speaking area) in Ireland recently.

Dara Ó Briain discovers "Sé-Mé". And the sky fell.

Dara Ó Briain discovers “Sé-Mé“. And the sky fell.

Flaky terminology

I joined my son (aged 13) for breakfast and asked him if he knew the Irish for “cereal.” Officially, the term would be “gránach bricfeasta” or similar, but he simply said, “calóga” (which basically means “flakes”).

Kellog's Special K in France

Kellog’s Special K on sale in France (Carrefour, Paris). Image by Ultan O’Broin.

But I thought he’d said “Cellógga,” my Dublin urban Irish ear already tuned into expecting to hear brand names and slang as terminology. That’s the Irish language for you today in Ireland: more people than ever (claim to) speak it, but we just can’t understand each other.

That's the Irish language for you today in Ireland: more people than ever (claim to) speak it, but we just can't understand each other. Click To Tweet This issue of an evolving Irish language demographic was covered by Brian Ó Broin (no relation) a few years back in a previous issue of MultiLingual and he has also written about emerging Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí (or Irish language speakers) elsewhere.

Whereas I could natter along in my pidgin Dublin Irish about “blockchain” or “chatbots” to other Dubliners, when weather announcements are made on Ireland’s official Irish broadcasting network in Irish, I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.

Language wars not worth fighting

I am sure other languages (French, for example) face these kind of issues. But does it really matter as long as people can communicate, and use the context to figure out the differences?

And I don’t think the official Irish versus everyday street version delineation is as clear-cut as many would like to think.

It was remarkable that many people in the Gaeltacht that I met switched between the urban “pidgin” Gaeilge, official Gaeilge, and even interspersed the conversation with English terms, depending on their innate human sense of what the listener would get.

As for that Kelloggs Special K, ironically there is no letter “K” in the Gaeilge alphabet.

If you’ve found yourself in similar situations or come across terminology conflicts in the digital age, then let us know in the comments!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Vive La French Tech! Chatbots, French Style

Language, Localization Technology, Personalization and Design

A Chat About Bots

Conversational UI, that natural interaction between human and technology, is a hot topic worldwide, and the localization requirements for creating a great contextual natural user experience are fascinating and challenging, none more so than in the case of chatbots.

La French Tech. See https://www.facebook.com/LaFrenchTechEN/ for more information!

La French Tech. See https://www.facebook.com/LaFrenchTechEN/ for more information on the French technology startup and investment community.

As Arle Lommel from CommonSense Advisory says: Chatbots pose challenges fundamentally different from what is seen with traditional content. The shift to conversational structures and the need to embrace “messy” terminology are among these. Click To Tweet

There are other challenges too. Plan ahead.

What’s Going On Globally?

Here’s a great example from France by way of an article featuring Amina Esselimani, a top French user experience design thinker, published on the Prototypr blog: Conversational interface for chatbot & voicebot: the French touch.

The article itself gives good insight into why chatbots should be used, and the methodologies involved. I was fascinated by the human-oriented design language used by Amina to describe her work, using phrases such as “happy path” and “repair conversations.”

Her comments about using the “Wizard of Oz” design requirements technique, engaging with conversational style content experts, and iterative testing with real users really resonated too. We've moved from user-centered design to human-centered design, and dealing with how humans actually communicate and simulating that kind of exchange can indeed be very messy in any language! Click To Tweet

I also checked out some of the chatbot solutions Amina worked on, such as the Oui.SNCF bot. I wondered if it had a French personality (personality is a critical design element in conversational UI) and what the tone would be my questions about the ongoing SNCF rolling strikes.

Hofstede's six dimensions of national culture. A useful starting point, but real users doing real jobs in real places are the best way to determine the appropriate bot personality for the job to be done.

Hofstede’s six dimensions of national culture, in this case comparing France with Ireland and the United States of America. Hofstede’s work is a useful starting point when developing a bot personalit, but real users doing real jobs in real places are the best way to determine the appropriate bot personality for the job to be done.

All utterances were handled very diplomatically, I must say, even making sense of my mangled French language utterances!

Out.SNCF chatbot available in multiple languages too.

Out.SNCF chatbot is available in multiple languages too. I stuck with French!

Alexa en Français

You might also like to read Wired’s fascinating, and sometimes humorous artlcle, Inside Amazon’s Painstaking Pursuit to Teach Alexa French in the run up to its launch in France.

Amazon Echo (Alexa) launch advertisement.

Amazon Echo voice assistant was launched in France in June 2018. Alexa was trained to be speak and act “French”.


Cultural differences create conversational landmines. And you just can’t be sure that everyone will like you. As it turns out, that as true for people as it is for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Click To Tweet

More information on globalization methods for conversational UIs and chatbots?

To understand more of the challenges presented by chatbot and conversational UI design and the cultural considerations involved, then check out my SF Globalization presentation and handy checklist on the subject of chatbot design for  global and local audiences: “Alexa, Tell Me About Global Chatbot Design and Localization!”

All images by Utan O’Broin

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Conversational UI Language Design at LocWorld35

Language in Business, Language in the News, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team member (and Microsoft Alum) Karen Scipi (@karenscipi) presented on the subject of Conversational UI in the Enterprise at #LocWorld35 Silicon Valley. Karen covered the central importance of  language design for chatbots and other conversational user interfaces (CUIs) for global work use cases.

Karen Scipi presenting on Conversational UIs in the Enterprise at Localization World in Silicon Valley 2017 (Image credit: Olga)

Karen Scipi presenting on Conversational UIs in the Enterprise at Localization World in Silicon Valley 2017 (Image credit: Olga)

Karen even developed two chatbot integrations for Slack introducing her topic. One was in English, the other was in Italian.

Italian LocWorld Chatbot Conversation Example

Italian LocWorld Chatbot Conversation Example (Source: Karen Scipi)

What’s a Conversational UI?

Chatbots and the alike are a very hot topic, wrapped up in the artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and robotics part of technology’s evolution. However, user experience design insight and an empathy for how people interact with each other through technology in work, at play, or in everyday life makes the difference when creating a great user experience in any language.What could be more 'natural' than talking to a computer? Click To Tweet

CUI means we moved from a “user”-centric concept of design to a human-centric one. After all, what could be more “natural” that talking to a computer? Both humans and computers “converse” in dialog, and it’s the language design knowledge for such a conversation that’s critical to delivering a natural, human-like interaction between the two.

Examples of CUIs include Facebook Messenger, Slack bots, TelegramAmazon Echo and Alexa devices, and so on. Interaction can be via voice, SMS messaging, typing text on a keyboard, and so on.

In the enterprise there are a broad range of considerations and stakeholders that localization and UX pros must to consider. Fundamentally though, enterprise CUIs are about increasing participation in the user experience of work, making things simpler.

 

Oracle Conversational UI image showing the interaction and participation of humans and the cloud - in any language! (Source: OAUX)

Oracle Conversational UI image showing the interaction and participation of humans and the cloud – in any language! (Source: OAUX)

Localization of Conversational UIs

To an extent, the localization or language part of the CUI interaction is determined by the NLP support of the chatbot or other platform used: what languages it supports, how good the AI and ML parts are, and so on. However, language skills are at the heart of the conversational UI design, whether it’s composing that  user storyline for design flows or creating the prompts and messages seen by the human involved.

This kind of communication skill is much in-demand: It is a special type of talent: a mix of technical writing, film script or creative writing, transcreation, and interpreting. It’s a domain insight that gets right down to the nitty-gritty of replicating and handling how humans really speak and write: slang, errors, typos, warts and all. CUI language designers must even decide how emoji and personality can or should be localized in different versions of a chatbot.

Where’s the Conversation Headed?

The conversational UI market is growing globally as messenger apps take over. Localization and language pros cannot ignore the conversational UI space.

Karen will be speaking next at the Seattle Localization User Group (SLUG) in December (2017) about Conversational UIs in the Enterprise.Localization and language pros cannot ignore the conversational UI space. Click To Tweet

 

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Language at the ❤ of Conversational Interfaces

Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

A Chat About Language and UI

Robotspeak in San Francisco. A great store, but it’s also exactly how conversational interfaces should NOT sound: like a robot. Conversational interfaces offer a natural way to deal with a multitude of digital asks and tasks and the crafting of language is critical to that intent. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Robotspeak in San Francisco. A great store, but it’s also exactly how conversational interfaces should NOT sound: like a robot. Conversational interfaces offer a natural way to deal with a multitude of digital asks and tasks and the crafting of language is critical to that intent. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Chatbots and conversational interfaces are all the rage right with startups, VCs, innovators and users alike. Messenger apps have surpassed social media in terms of popularity and we’re witnessing the awesome agency of chatbots such as KLM Messenger as a natural way for users to perform a huge range of digital asks and tasks without the need for special devices or apps.

Going Global With Conversational Interfaces

But what are the localization and translation aspects to chatbots and conversational computing?

To a large extent, the natural language processing (NLP) backend capabilities of the bot or messaging platform determine much of the linguistic side of the user experience (UX). However, there are plenty of other considerations for internationalization and localization people to concern themselves with, not least educating designers and developers in globalization best practices.

Check out this super article “Do you want your chatbot converse in foreign languages? My learnings from bot devs” by Artem Nedrya for a start.

It is also very clear that there is a huge role for the conversational UI writer in the design and creation of conversational interfaces. An understanding of language, its style, tone, grammar, and so on, is central to making or breaking a conversational interface UX but also to ensuring that any content created is localizable and makes sense to a local user.

Here’s an article I wrote for Chatbots Magazine that covers the topic of language and chatbot UX that also touches the translation space. I hope you find my thoughts in “Writing Skills: At the ❤️ Of Chatbot UX Design” useful.

Conversational UI is dependent on bot and messenger platform NLP capability but human language skills are still definitely at the core of conversational UI design. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Conversational UI is dependent on bot and messenger platform NLP capability. But human language skills are still definitely at the core of conversational UI design. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Don’t be surprised if you see the topics of chatbots and conversational interfaces coming up on the agendas of localization conferences and in publications a lot more!

As ever, for a conversation on this blog post, find the comments box!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Conversational User Experience: Language Learning with Duolingo

Language, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

I’ve previously written for MultiLingual about the language learning app Duolingo. I recall Duolingo’s launch and remarking how it was yet another #haterzgonnahate moment for the language industry critics out there. They’ve been proven wrong again. Nothing new there with the blowhards. Just like with their Google Translate criticisms they don’t get it that the alternative is not a human professional translator charging users for money for top quality grammar, terms and style, but no language option at all.

I also wrote about how my own national language, Irish (Gaeilge), is doing so well on the platform and receiving such high-level recognition.

Personally speaking, Duolingo is an ideal way for me to “get my ear in” before I travel abroad somewhere. I’m constantly adding languages into my learning mix

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Exploring Italian on Duolingo. I think I will wait until I get a bit more fluent before sharing my skills on LinkedIn, but I like it! Social is a key part of the Duolingo experience.

Chatting About User Experience

Duolingo takes advantage of voice-enabled devices of course, although it can be used without that feature. I mostly use Duolingo on my laptop and smart phone (language options in beta are not available on mobile), and have even tried it on Google Glass!

Duolingo’s got it all going on really from a UX perspective. It’s free, fun, global, local, social, all about mobility from the cloud, includes gamification, is powered by the crowd, packs voice interaction, and now bots too. A bot is ideal for language learning conversational interaction, of course (though the bot feature is not available in every Duolingo language option).

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A Duolingo bot can be unlocked to practice your language skills “for real” after a certain level. 

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Chatbots are an ideal way to engage with a languagelearning app, delivering a conversational UI for conversational solutions. Of course, text input and gestural interactions are also available.

The People Have Spoken

Duolingo is being used by so many people and for so many things! I know people who use it to learn French, German, Spanish, Italian, Vietnamese, Irish, Romanian, and more. This might be out of love of learning new languages, getting the hang of some phrases in advance of foreign travel, strengthening the kids’ school language learning, just wanting to converse with others in their own language on a more casual basis, or simply out of plain old curiosity.

For many, Duolingo is the “only game” in town.

This TED talk with Luis von Ahn about large-scale online collaboration will help you get your head around what Duolingo is about. But, honestly, the best way to experience Duolingo is to … start that conversation yourself Go for it!

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Duolingo explains as you learn: Noun gender in Spanish is covered  as you use your own voice on a smartphone, for example.

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Hey kids, you talkin’ to me? Italian lesson with voice input enabled.

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More carrot than stick with the Irish lesson. There’s a change! Listen and then drag and drop the words to translate. Nice!

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Activity stream showing my Duolingo progress.

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Hey You! Your friendly Duo reminder on the smartphone!

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Bring the Bitterballen. Learning with others can be fun too. Duolingo lets you try group learning as well as learning on your own.

Your Duolingo Conversation Is Here

If you’ve used Duolingo, I’d love to hear about the experience: the why, how and what you felt about it. The comments box is open for your conversation.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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