How I’ve developed a a Cognitive Assistant, powered by Watson for expats IBMers in Wroclaw.

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Recently I had the opportunity to develop and deliver a Cognitive Virtual Assistant powered by IBM Watson in our Client Innovation Center in Wroclaw, Poland to help our expats IBMers to find public and generic information about Relocation to Wroclaw, VISA, Residence Permit, Government documents and more, using natural language.

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Technically, the Cognitive Virtual Assistant is a chabot. Chatbots are becoming an essential way to let users interact with organizations. They speak the same language we do, can answer questions and offer support at a moment’s notice. By adding a natural language interface to our expats community in IBM Wroclaw, we are able to make some important steps to break down barriers to fast, efficient communications between our International Workforce.

The implementation of a Cognitive Assistant’s that use artificial intelligence that can be trained, can learn and can answer to user’s needs of specific information on a very dynamic way is the essence of IBM Watson Conversation Service. Our Cognitive Virtual Assistant is capable of recognizing questions and understanding their meaning in a human-like way, representing an opportunity to automate and re-imagine member’s engagement in our community like never before.

During the first phase of implementation, I’ve been training the Virtual Assistant with basic information, grouped in categories like the International Workforce Community, the International Buddy Program, Health, Taxes, Insurances, Visa requirements and generic information, Relocation and a more generic category called Useful Information, focused on the Expat’s point of view and necessities. Based on these categories I was able to build the set of information used by Watson to answer properly to our expats community members in English.

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A large amount of important data has been added to the Virtual Assistant since the members had started to use the chatbot. It becomes more efficient to recognize questions and to provide correct answers as more as it is has been used in real situations.

I am collaborating with our IBM HR Department sharing in real time their Frequently Asked Questions by Expats in Wroclaw and Katowice with the Virtual Assistant. This collaboration surely increase our capacity to provide more accurate answers to our Expat members and will help HR to manage the continuous and always increasing number of request of information and advising from the International Workforce.

While designing and delivering a fully functional chatbot to our CIC was very useful for me to keep in mind that before I start coding a chatbot, it would be a good practice to have a good and clear enough plan to understand where I wanted to arrive with the project.

Since the beginning, using IBM Design Thinking framework, I was able to remain focused on our IBMers expats necessities gathering ideas and suggestions until the actual outcome. We will keep improvement this project with new features and corrections. As we used to say here, everything is a prototype and continuous improvement is essential.

During the development of this Virtual Assistant, other than a clear plan I used to follow some important best practices that help me to understand and define better the Concept, the Conversational UX and the Tone of voice of the agent.

The Concept of the chatbot comes from the reason to develop it, the Conversational UX is the way the chatbot operates in the background and how this is reflected when being used and the The tone of voice is its personality.

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To build a chatbot with Watson you need an IBM/Bluemix account to start, and it is free. Of course, the quality of the chatbot is dependent on the quality of the knowledge engineering work you put in to produce the right dialogs for you.

To get started with Conversation, you’ll need a Bluemix account. If you don’t have one already, you can sign up here (and get a free 30-day trial!). Once you have signed in, navigate to the catalog, scroll down to the Watson services, and select the Conversation tile.

During the next days I will start to write technical articles explaining more details regarding the development of my chatbots and the integration with other Watson Services like Discover, Tone Analyzer and Text to speech and Speech to Text and others.

I am engaged on some interesting Cognitive Projects here in IBM Wroclaw and very soon I will share some articles about it. If you need further information about Watson Products & Services, do not hesitate to contact me.


Jair Ribeiro

Written by

A passionate and enthusiastic Artificial Intelligence Evangelist writing about people's experiences with technology and innovation.

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