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An Update On All Things IBM Watson Assistant Related

And How The Watson Assistant Strategy Is Unfolding

Introduction

In the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Conversational AI Platforms, for January 2021, IBM was leading as the visionary and with completeness of vision.

According to the IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Conversational Artificial Intelligence Software Platforms for Customer Service 2021 Vendor Assessment, IBM had virtually the largest market share and counted amongst the leaders.

An Update On All Things Watson Assistant Related

Dialog Skills

On 5 April 2022 Dialog Skills were enabled in the new Watson Assistant . The dialog feature is available in the new Watson Assistant experience. If you have a Dialog Skill based assistant that was built using the classic Watson Assistant, you can now migrate your dialog skill to the new Watson Assistant experience.

Within the new IBM Watson Assistant experience, the Activate dialog button is now active.

This is a significant step forward in bolstering their new interface and experience. Watsons Assistant’s dialog management approach within Dialog Skills is really unique. In the sense that it is very much a simplified approach with state machine like interface.

In the new experience the Dialog icon and link have been added with in the Build section.

Action Skills

  • IBM is continuously adding new functionality to Action Skills, like enhanced debugging and variable handing, user response flexibility, dynamic URL’s, improved fine-tuning, disambiguation, digression, and focus on web deployment.
  • Action Skills can be used in a stand-alone mode and can indeed constitute a complete chatbot. Action Skills can also be used as sub-dialogs or extensions to dialog skills. This is the true power of Action Skills.
  • Users can revert back to the old experience should they wish to do so. It is quite fast and efficient to toggle between the two experiences, should you have active workspaces in both.

Strategy

  • IBM is executing well on their strategy, there were some unfounded doubts. Their strategy is unfolding in a number of ways, and it is easy to miss it as many changes are intuitive. For instance, irrelevance detection is still available, as seen in the testing pane. But is orchestrated under the hood, and the toggle option is removed form dialog settings.
The on / off toggle for irrelevance detection has been removed as can be seen here in the Dialog Skill settings pane. There seems to be a simplification of the interface and functionality is becoming more intuitive.

The on / off toggle for irrelevance detection has been removed as can be seen here in the Dialog Skill settings pane. There seems to be a simplification of the interface and functionality is becoming more intuitive.

This is the test pane, where irrelevance can be marked. Irreverence can also be set on a JSON level, more about this later.
  • Watson Assistant has a very steady cadence of new releases, including enhancements on irrelevance detection, fuzzy matching, spelling autocorrection and web chat focused enhancements.
  • IBM Cloud is not following the lead of Kore AI, Cognigy and Nuance Mix with full functionality access sans a credit card. This approach by the three platforms is a significant enabler. IBM Cloud does have 40 service available for free. Of which Watson Assistant Lite is one, but you need to supply credit card details to register an account.
  • IBM Watson Assistant does not have incremental training of the NLU model like other platforms, but they have significantly shortened their training time, which is more efficient in the long run and simplifies matters.
  • There is user example recommendations, which makes it easier to identify new phrasing for your intents. Watson Assistant will recommend new user examples. For a complete solution in this regard, take a look at HumanFirst.
  • Watson Assistant has not yet added any hierarchical structure or functionality to their intents. Intent examples can be annotated and WA tokenises the utterances for easy annotation.
  • Entities also do not have much structure, but for synonym generation, fuzzy matching etc.
Synonyms can be generated for an entity.

Irrelevance Detection

  • On 7 November 2019 irrelevance detection was added to Watson Assistant. When enabled, a supplemental model is used to help identify utterances that are irrelevant and should not be answered by the dialog skill. There are two ways to define an utterance as irrelevant, the one is via the test pane, as seen below…
This is the test pane, where irrelevance can be marked. Irreverence can also be set on a JSON level, more about this later.

The other and perhaps more efficient way is to add irrelevance or counter examples via the JSON payload.

{
"intents": [
{
"intent": "Cancel",
"examples": [
{
"text": "cancel that"
},
{
"text": "cancel the request"
},
{
"text": "forget it"
},
{
"text": "i changed my mind"
},
{
"text": "i don't want a table anymore anymore"
},
{
"text": "never mind"
},
{
"text": "nevermind"
}
],
"description": "Cancel the current request"
}

Above, is how an intent is defined within a Dialog Skill JSON payload.

"counterexamples": [
{
"text": "Africa is a content"
},
{
"text": "I need to sleep now."
},
{
"text": "I want to jump into the pool"
}
],

And here (above) is the utterances for irrelevance or counter example training.

  • Irrelevance detection is a key and distinguishing feature of any Conversational AI system. Enhancements on it is key and this development is surely a good sign.
  • This feature is available in both Dialog Skills & Action Skills, both in the old and the new experience.
The same user utterance with enhanced irrelevance detection switched on and off.

Utterances with an assigned intent can be marked as irrelevant and saved as counter examples in the workspace. And hence included as part of the training data. This teaches the chatbot to explicitly not answer utterances of this nature.

Conclusion

IBM Watson Assistant has the distinct advantage of being a comprehensive industrial strength solution whilst also being a cohesive singular Conversational AI solution.

The other advantage Watson Assistant enjoys is the general support of other elements within the IBM cloud ecosystem.

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NLP/NLU, Chatbots, Voice, Conversational UI/UX, CX Designer, Developer, Ubiquitous User Interfaces. www.cobusgreyling.me

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