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The Next Generation Of Web Interaction Allows You To Find Information By Asking The Application Questions In Natural Language

Volume’s Digital Concierge, called LUSY, represents the next generation of web interaction powered by IBM Watson technology. Volume became an IBM Watson ecosystem partner in April 2015 and by October this year had three ‘With Watson’ verified applications in-market. Today, they are leaders in cognitive computing and are technology agnostic. They work with other leading AI technologies, as they believe true AI solutions will be myriad cognitive services from multiple AI vendors. Below is our interview with Chris Sykes from Volume:

Chris Sykes

Q: Chris, could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Volume’s Digital Concierge?

A: Sure. Our Digital Concierge™ (DC) represents the next generation of web interaction, allowing you to find information by asking the application a question in natural language, rather than using traditional navigation buttons and menus to locate recompiled static content.

Trained on a specific domain of knowledge, the DC will reply to questions verbally in natural language. This is supported with the answer being written on the screen simultaneously. The DC can be accessed like any traditional website, on a PC, mobile phone or tablet, etc.

Volume’s DC is called LUSY. And because we’re always asked, LUSY is the sister of our cognitive employee mental wellbeing app – SUSY™. SUSY stands for ‘supramarginal gyrus’, a portion of the parietal lobe. It’s involved with language perception and processing. The SY is the application itself – the ‘system’.

LUSY is a representation of Volume’s brand identity – she sounds young, intelligent and fun. Companies wanting their own Digital Concierge have the freedom to create their own personality that best reflects their brand.

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Q: What’s Volume’s start-up story?

A: Our start up story goes back nearly 20 years to 1997, so we’re not your traditional start up. We entered the market as a technology-biased digital agency specialising in creating bespoke software applications and digital content in all its consumable forms. Our early clients were Dell and Oracle, both of whom remain significant clients today. Along the way, we attracted many of the other large global technology firms, so now have a great portfolio of leading tech clients. Servicing clients in the technology sector meant innovation was at the heart of everything we did. When IBM Watson started to develop and come to the fore, we were naturally curious about what it and ‘AI’ could do. We first looked at how it could enhance the applications we had previously built that were incumbent in many of our customers. We became an IBM Watson ecosystem partner in April 2015 and by October this year had three ‘With Watson’ verified applications in-market, making us one of a very small few.

Q: What makes Volume a good choice?

A: Our customers are also at the heart of everything we do. Delivering great customer service and support is in our DNA, it’s why we’ve been able to maintain such long-term customer relationships. We measure the quality of our service by conducting Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to our total contact base of over 250 customers. Our 2016 NPS score is 67, which puts us ahead of Google and Apple. We use our NPS score to measure the performance of our people, rather than a revenue number. Our legacy of establishing and maintaining long-term commercial relationships and delivering innovation early to large businesses (and small ones), gives us an edge. Volume has all the excitement of a start-up but with the experience, market knowledge and commercial acumen of a stable and established business. With our leadership in AI and cognitive computing, we can help businesses start their journey. We understand that many organisations are simply not ready to integrate AI into their operations or digital ecosystems. Our legacy services provide an introduction to Volume, showing businesses that we can support them both today and in the future.

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Q: What kinds of feedback are you getting from users?

A: Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive considering LUSY is getting an average of 500 questions a day. For some users at first it’s a confusing scenario. Some see LUSY as a talking website, they don’t understand she’s a cognitive application that learns with every question and interaction. A cognitive application is very different to traditional software applications. We have to get LUSY trained to be credible in the public domain of the internet. When we launched LUSY in October, she was like a 12year old. You can have a reasonable conversation with a 12-year-old, but their knowledge is limited and not as broad as the users questioning her. LUSY learns quickly though, and she’ll soon be graduating university, where she can add even more value to a business.

The majority of feedback however, has been very supportive and appreciative that we’ve been bold enough to deliver a first of its kind. Right now there is nothing comparable to LUSY, so people are intrigued by it. We have seen more returning users to LUSY and the length of time interacting with her is three times that of our previous .com website. LUSY has also generated enquiries from industry sectors outside of Volume’s traditional customer base, which was one of the motivators for us to move into this fast emerging area.

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Q: What can we expect from you in the future?

A: For LUSY she will start to understand the ‘mood’ of the customer, as well as answering questions. This will help to drive dialogue between human and smart machine. LUSY will be able to detect if a user is happy, sad, angry or stressed. She will be able to react accordingly through tailoring her dialogue or adjusting the type of content served up to suit the personality of the user. So imagine using a Digital Concierge in a sale scenario. The DC could detect the personality type using the Hartman personality profiling as an example. If the person is more analytical in their purchasing behaviours (blue) the content served up will be more detailed and comprehensive. If the user’s personality is more spontaneous in a buying scenario (red), the content delivered is more image-led and visual. Beyond that we are able to use image and facial recognition to take the customer experience to a whole new level, as the DC recognises return visitors as well as their facial expression.

As well as being ‘With Watson’, Volume is a certified partner of Softbank Robotics, the manufacturers of the humanoid robot Pepper. We are developing applications for Pepper robots to extend an online experience into an experiential one. To sell wine in a superstore, cars in a showroom, to welcome people to a facility, as a virtual receptionist or concierge. Furthermore, we see uses for Pepper robots as classroom assistants in schools or as robot counsellors, helping people with private issues that are difficult for some to discuss with a human. This all sounds kind of science fiction but we are living this now and soon you will be too.

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