21 March 2014

ROCKIT: Paving the Road to Future of Conversational Interaction Technologies

New conversational interaction technologies raise many business and societal opportunities.  European research can provide interactive agents that are proactive, multimodal, social, and autonomous. Moreover, it is now possible to draw data from many different sources together to provide very rich context and knowledge to use in applications.  But how can the organisations who want to exploit this technology decide what products and services to develop, and where to invest their R&D?  ROCKIT is a new strategic roadmapping initiative that will create a shared vision and innovation agenda to guide this process for all types of stakeholders in this emerging area.

Most technology roadmaps merely describe the future and speculate about what will happen if technology is left to evolve of its own accord.  ROCKIT is different – we will decide what we want the future to hold in ten years' time, and create a structured and visual map of the steps we need to take in order to realize our vision. Markets and drivers, products and services, and enabling technologies will all form different layers so that readers can see the basics at a glance, find what interests them most, and drill down into detail.   For example, if a company knows their market requires a particular service, they will be able to see exactly what technology developments and science research is required to make that service happen, complete with an assessment of the readiness for every item.  Conversely, technology providers will be able to see wider possibilities for their components than they could on their own.  

We will start by defining our vision of the future – constructing a number of key “scenarios”, our future use cases – and the drivers and constraints that assess where the community currently is in its ability to deliver that vision. We will then establish the possible routes and required developments to fulfil that vision.   With this mapping done we will be able to highlight key enablers, technology gaps, risks and resource gaps. Iteration will ensure our roadmap is robust and correct. The roadmapping process will be ably led by Vodera, which has produced roadmaps leading to sounder research and innovation programmes in diverse application domains such as automotive, aerospace, security, healthcare and environmental monitoring.

Getting all this information under control has traditionally been a problem for roadmaps – but in ROCKIT pioneers the use of SharpCloud, a new online collaborative visualisation platform that makes it much easier to capture, edit, display, and disseminate roadmap contents than was previous possible.  As a result, the knowledge of the community will be in an accessible format that allows easy identification of trends, gaps, opportunities, and resources.

A roadmap is only as good as the people who contribute to it.  ROCKIT needs the right participants, and they have to cover every stakeholder community, from R&D and system integrators to component suppliers and usability experts, and more.  SMEs are just as important as large companies and public sector research organisations, since most current commercial activity takes place there. If you want to be involved, join the Conversational Interaction Technology Innovation Alliance (CITIA) Linkedin Group or speak to the ROCKIT partners. Forthcoming Workshops are planned in conjunction with major sector events such as LREC (Reykjavik, May 2014), ICASSP (Florence, May 2014) and LT Innovate Summit (Brussels, June 2014).

Article contributed by Costis Kompis, Vodera

Costis Kompis is the managing partner of Vodera, where he helps private and public organisations align their R&D activities, develop innovation strategies for emerging technologies and design new business models to capture market opportunities.

18 March 2014

Meetings of Minds: The Promise of Smart Knowledge Management for Online Conferences

Much effort is being put into building the market for technology that supports rich-media online meetings. This segment covers anything from telepresence and high-quality video conferences to private meetings, conference calls and webinars. In due course, driven by mobile and the cloud, it will extend to applications such as multiple-site remote surgery or online customer focus groups.

The common denominator of all these digital meet-ups is that they inevitably produce – because they are all about humans communicating together – large amounts of content: i.e. recordable language data that can provide substantial added value to all kinds of stakeholders if properly captured and processed.

To give an idea of the market value, 2011 revenue from the global video conferencing infrastructure grew by 26.9% (to $746M). In 2012 a company such as Cisco did significantly better. More important for knowledge management services is the software layer poised on top of the unified communications infrastructure, much invested in by telecoms equipment companies such as Avaya.

Just recently Oracle said it was making a substantial bet on video-conferencing as a major business line. Surely Microsoft among others with its high-potential Skype asset will be eying the same market.

The story of smart meeting technology goes back to the early days of exploring how computing could augment – rather than replace - human intellectual work. This was radically enabled by the research into computer interfaces, networks and graphics in the Augment programme led by Doug Engelbart back in the 1970s. He tried to adapt the technology of his time to help teams of intellectual workers increase their grasp of complex decision-making and data handling during very large-scale industrial projects.

This singular seam of computing history is often contrasted with the development of the famous Artificial Intelligence agenda. The focus here was on automating essentially human practices such as using language to create meaning, and reason over semantic entities. This led to software applications for powering processes ranging from medical diagnoses to driving a car.

Augmenting the value of meetings poses a real challenge. Meetings can involve many participants in free-flowing conversations around documents or presentations that generate a huge flow of information, both trivial and critical. Sorting through the inevitable noise generated in order to identify the key takeaways is a demanding task. As is the parallel need to check on the relevance of those half-forgotten suggestions, criticisms, and expressions of support.

Note that a perfectly intelligent aural record of a meeting would change the psychological dynamics of how people process what happened, producing a cool, detailed photograph rather than human memory’s warm, impressionistic picture. Although everyone keeps their own notes as a partial record of a meeting, there is also a scribe whose job it is to take down the official “minutes”. What if there was an independent and searchable record of the whole event?

Enter Gridspace which has come up with an NLP-driven solution for recording and indexing the content of meetings, and collecting and integrating all documentation associated with it, so that it produces a searchable knowledge base.

The application also claims to provide a dashboard for meeting attendees of what the system considers to be the “most important” content of the meeting – i.e. a sort of automated minutes. The aim is of course to save time and give a rapid solution to the post meeting problem of collating scribbled notes into an “objective” record. Another company operating in this space is VoiceBase

Four leads for adding functionality to future meeting apps:

1. Although small-group online meetings may use a single language – possibly linguafranca English – any meeting knowledge support system will eventually need to be multilingual in scope. In some cases, interpreters could be integrated into the workflow (with the attendant data capture issues); in others, subtitles could be used to simplify communications.  Subtitle companies using speech recognition to aid multilingual access include the people behind Jibbigo (before it was bought by Facebook – no news since), but also Translate Your World, which claims translation capabilities for subtitles in 78 languages or automated voice translation in 35 languages. A hard linguistic nut to crack, of course, but essential in the long run.

2. “Intelligent Meeting” applications will also need to be able to consolidate a whole historical series of meetings on the same topics and summarise their contents. They should provide people with references to previous meetings, what people said before, what updates have been shared by email, and so on. In other words, a fully-fledged ideas monitor that can take the burden of searching and consolidating information and morph it into usable input for everyone involved the meeting.

3. Other add-ons will almost certainly be dreamt up to improve meeting productivity in due course. In a BYOD world, wearable computing devices such as smart glasses could well turn into a meeting interface for some, requiring a number of adaptations to the meeting scenario. Fine-tuned emotion recognition software may well find its way into meeting software to help participants detect the temperature of their co-members either in their facial expression or in their manner of speaking. These will enable people who have never met before to rapidly evaluate personalities. Sinister but possibly manageable.

4. Knowledge technology advances in online meeting/webinars will almost certainly extend to the world of education and training (e.g. MOOCs) and open up an interesting multilingual marketplace for smart apps that help learners engage more easily, understand more intelligently, and access richer knowledge repositories. Again, across the language spectrum.

Data2Content, the smart solution that lets you create editorial content for websites automatically

Syllabs, the French expert in semantic analysis, launched Data2Content, the automated solution for producing editorial content for websites. Using a structured database (e.g., product information and specifications), the Data2Content solution automatically produces large volumes of human-quality editorial content (e.g., product descriptions, technical data sheets, etc.). The solution also takes care of automatic content updates and supports multilingualism through the creation of content in several languages from the same data set, without the need for translation.

Data2Content provides the following client benefits:

  • improved customer experience thanks to rich, detailed content
  • increased number of visitors and customer retention (relevant and attractive content) making it possible to lower the bounce rate
  • adaptation to target audience through the choice of an appropriate style
  • quick integration into a website’s workflow (various formats are possible and texts can also be made available in SaaS mode through a dedicated web service)
  • better visibility of the website’s content: Data2Content texts are optimized to boost natural ranking

A fully automated and standardized solution, Data2Content is already used by leading web players in the fields of e-commerce, e-tourism, online directories and classified ads websites such as Brioude Internet (web agency), QuelleAutomobile.fr or Motoblouz.fr.

06 March 2014

Do you want to analyze texts but currently don't have your own semantic engine?

Focus on your business and rely on Eurosentiment services for doing that work. You'll just have to integrate a simple API in your system. As an example, they have mined opinions for some products on popular websites. Feel free to try the live demo application here.

EuroSentiment aims at creating a shared pool of shared language resources for fostering sentiment analysis, accessible by means of well-defined models and frameworks that leverage the promotion of SMEs in the emerging market of Sentiment Analysis products and services.

The data pool will cover 6 languages -English, Catalan, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish- and will be validated through opinion mining demonstrators in two different domains. The targeted users are B2B including service developers, content providers and language resource owners.

EuroSentiment will innovate providing a domain-oriented shared language resource based on WordNetDomains and aligned with WordNet Affect. The pool will be multi-lingual and based on linked data, providing a self-sustainable and profitable framework for language resource sharing.