“I’m lucky to have lived through three digital disruptions: the internet, mobile, and now conversational UI,” said Suhas Uliyar, vice president for bots, AI, and mobile for Oracle Cloud Platform, during his Oracle OpenWorld 2017 session. Uliyar illustrated his point by showing how his preteen daughter recently sent him a message written entirely in emojis, asking him to order pizza for her and her friends. His key point: People will use their preferred communication channel, and it’s up to your company to learn how—with the help of Oracle’s new conversational AI platform—to figure out how to understand them.
Many researchers believe conversational AI will soon be developers’ first priority, surpassing cloud-native and mobile-first projects in importance. Chatbots—built on a foundation of containerized microservices and connecting to back-end systems via API—are not only an easy way to break into conversational UIs, they’re an onramp to building and training artificial intelligence.
“We could have taken the approach that many other vendors have taken: ‘We’ll build an AI platform, now you figure out what to do with it,’” Uliyar says. “We took a different approach. We started with AI components that are chatbot-focused, but it doesn’t end there—that’s just a beginning that allows you now to expand into other utilities. If you want to use our NLU [natural language understanding] processing outside of chatbot, feel free to use it. It’s all built in a microservices architecture in the first place.”
API-Enabled Chatbot Prototypes
Several Oracle customers have recently piloted chatbot solutions built in record time with a brand-new bot service that’s bundled in Oracle Cloud Platform for Mobile. One is AAR, a global aviation services company headquartered in Chicago.
Another successful chatbot pilot program using Oracle’s new tools comes from Australia’s National Pharmacies, a 2017 Oracle Excellence Award winner for cloud platform innovation. At the conference session with Uliyar, Ryan Klose, National Pharmacies’ general manager for technology, strapped on a blood pressure cuff and stepped on a scale to show how a chatbot can guide him through the measurement process, take the results, and then praised him for his good health. The chatbot-led measurements are part of National Pharmacies’ recently launched weight loss and home health programs, which it sees as a potential revenue growth opportunity.
“We try to connect with empathy,” Klose explained. Because it engages with customers about their health and health data, “our journey had to be unique.” Not to mention, the company had to integrate chatbots with its existing engagement channels of a mobile app, online store, website, in-store kiosks, and recently launched ewalls.
According to Klose, the return on investment target for the systems, built in part on Oracle Mobile Cloud Service and Oracle Application Builder Cloud Service, includes reducing store telephone and email queries by 441,000 minutes per year.
Oracle’s open, software-friendly ecosystem enabled Klose’s team to craft a hybrid solution.
“Taking a chance on Oracle technologies has paid off for us. We’ve gained one security model that cuts across all these platforms, and one set of intelligence that’s connected end to end,” Klose said. Plus, the company can integrate third-party systems, such as a gamification platform out of Singapore called 3Radical, and facial recognition from Amazon.
Instant Contextual Apps
At the conference, Oracle announced it was expanding new intelligent bots capabilities by embedding Chatbox Instant Apps in Oracle Mobile Cloud. This enables chatbots to switch seamlessly between unstructured conversation and personalized, structured data exchange. Using popular interaction channels such as Amazon Echo, Facebook Messenger, and Google Home, you can enable powerful chatbot conversations through almost any platform.
“We believe mobile is transforming into instant contextual apps, and they’re going to merge with conversational interfaces,” says Uliyar. All these channels will coexist, however: “When mobile came out, they said ‘web is dead’—but nobody’s killing the browser anytime soon.”
Alexa Weber Morales is a content strategist and editor for Oracle.