Oracle has added AI voice commands to its Digital Assistant, giving users an alternative way to interact with its various business applications. The company also announced on Tuesday that the bot will be integrated with Microsoft’s workflow collaboration platform, Teams.
Oracle Digital Assistant was launched last year as an interface to its portfolio of business software applications, which includes sales, marketing and human resources tools. The virtual assistant uses artificial intelligence techniques, such as machine learning and natural language processing and understanding, to interpret the user’s intent; It is designed to automate processes such as approving expenses and rescheduling meetings.
The digital assistant was initially geared towards text interactions and has been integrated into various communication and collaboration tools such as Slack, WeChat and Facebook Messenger, as well as user websites and as a standalone mobile application. The most common use cases so far have been customer service interactions, employee self-service for IT support office issues, and interactions with Oracle enterprise resource planning systems, such as invoices, the company said.
The addition of a voice interface should broaden the attractiveness of the virtual assistant, said Suhas Uliyar, vice president of artificial intelligence and digital assistant at Oracle. «One of the things we are starting to see in the field or that we have received feedback from customers is the increased voice in the company,» he said. «People want to be able to talk to the chatbot or the virtual assistant instead of typing or touching.»
Voice assistants have become popular with home users and are beginning to spread in the workplace; Amazon’s Amazon business service is a good example. Although adoption rates remain low, analytics firm Gartner predicted that 25% of digital workers would interact with virtual assistants on a daily basis within two years. (Gartner also expects a quarter of all employee interactions with apps to be voice by 2023, compared to less than 35 now.)
«The ability to voice-control software and get a quick and accurate response is powerful,» said Annette Jump, senior analyst at Gartner. «With each advancement in widely used technologies, such as Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa, people are becoming more accustomed to this way of working (or telling their systems to do the work for them) and expecting their expectations for consumer and business applications ”.
Why create another voice assistant?
Oracle Digital Assistant is already interacting with other voice assistants, including Siri Apple and Alexa Amazon. Uliyar mentioned two key reasons why the company is adding its own voice capabilities, namely the lack of support for business vocabulary and privacy concerns over other AI-based options.
Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft were set on fire after reporting that staff and contract workers had access to a small number of customer voice recordings for a quality review. Amazon, Google and Microsoft have defended this practice.
Uliyar pointed out that Oracle employees will not access customer data.
«Customers do not want their data to go to public cloud providers or, more specifically, for third parties to access or listen to it,» he said. «In our case, confidentiality and security are maintained. Only our customers have access to your data. We do not use it to requalify our models – this is very important for GDPR. And while we store it in Oracle’s second-generation cloud infrastructure, we at Oracle don’t touch it. Confidentiality, security and compliance with the GDPR are very important. »
Uliyar also said that Oracle has managed to adapt its Digital Assistant to the language used in the workplace and add common acronyms or terms in individual sectors to the vocabulary of the voice assistant.
Take «KAD,» for example, which in the Oracle language of employees refers to «key account manager.» This is likely to be taken as a reference to a «cat» or «CAD», abbreviated Canadian dollars, by several consumer-oriented AI assistants, Uliyar said.
Another feature is the option to receive text answers to spoken questions, which helps address the challenges of voice assistant interactions in a busy office, Oracle said.
Using a voice assistant at work can lead to data protection issues if sensitive data is transmitted for other employees to hear, while noise can be a distraction.
«For example, you can be in an office where there are offices everywhere,» Uliyar said. Imagine the chaos if everyone’s digital assistant answered you. Even at a low volume, it would be a lot. You can turn it off, just talk to your digital assistant and download the data as text. «
When providing text answers, voice assistants should not be more disturbing than an employee receiving a phone call. «Users want to be able to say whatever comes to mind and if they can get an answer as a text, they love it because now it doesn’t bother anyone,» Uliyer said.
Jim Lundy, founder and CEO of Aragon Research, called Oracle’s OpenWorld demonstration of the assistant’s ability to present an expense report as «robust» and anticipates companies’ interest in new ways to interact with cloud applications.
«Being able to talk to an enterprise application is a big problem – we see a growing demand for robots with questions and answers and those that perform tasks for you,» he said. «The biggest problem Oracle is facing is that it mainly sells its Digital Assistant to existing Oracle customers. There are many companies looking for chatbots that solve fundamental questions and answers – Oracle needs to make it easier for those companies to purchase Oracle Digital Assistant offers. Please note that the Microsoft Teams agreement should help. «
However, questions have been raised about Oracle’s ability to provide a voice assistant. One analyst warned users about Oracle’s lack of experience with voice AI technologies and suggested it would be better to partner with another more experienced provider.
«Customers should be very skeptical before implementing Oracle Digital Assistant,» said Patrick Moorhead, founder and president of Moor Insights & Strategy. «The company has no background in artificial intelligence, especially in speech and knowledge of natural language. I would feel much more comfortable if Oracle had collaborated with companies like Microsoft or Amazon that have voice leadership capabilities. «
Integration of Microsoft Teams
Regarding the integration of the AI assistant with Microsoft Teams, Oracle said it allows workers to interact with Oracle sales or human capital management applications without leaving teams. This will save users time and avoid the need to switch between applications, Oracle said.
«Now, as an employee, I don’t have to go to 10 different places to find my answer, I use the same tool [para la colaboración en equipo] to talk to my sales backend or ERP backend and get the answer, ”said Uliyar. .
Jump said that as team adoption grows and becomes a focal point of conversations, meetings, and interactions for many office workers, virtual assistants could become a useful bridge to business applications.
«Because it always runs in the background, it will be a smoother experience using an enterprise virtual assistant that is integrated with Teams,» he said. “… For now, the use of the user conversation interface is still in its infancy in the company, so employees / users need to know … that such capabilities are available and find appropriate environments to use them. sensitive personal information from human resource systems in a busy, open office may not always be the most convenient experience. «
A 2018 Gartner CIO survey showed that only 4% of companies currently implement a chatbot or virtual assistant, while 17% actively experience or intend to do so in the short term, and 21% have it in the medium term. or long. . planning (for the next two to five years).
The decision to integrate with the Microsoft application makes sense, as the two companies continue to work together, Lundy said. «Because many Oracle accounts are also Microsoft Office 365 accounts, this is a solid move,» he said.
«Overall, there seems to be more cooperation between Microsoft and Oracle, which is likely to counter the growing threat of Amazon AWS. We expect this to create demand for Oracle customers, as Oracle can demonstrate more integration with other applications, which should make Oracle Digital Assistant more rigid in non-Oracle accounts. «
Teams integration is currently available as a private preview.