Chatbots: Putting the ‘art’ into ‘artificial intelligence’

Richard de Silva
Posted: 12/20/2017

A passion for design and the discovery of coding led Jasmine Anteunis deep into the world of AI 

intelligent design hero
Image via Pexels 

Skepticism surrounding the ability for today’s AI to simulate the interactive or social abilities of a human being is understandable given the intricacies and contradictions inherent to human language and behavior.

But some of the latest solutions are meeting—and often exceeding—common expectations thanks to the input from developers with non-conventional coding backgrounds.

As a new member to the Artificial Intelligence & Intelligent Automation Advisory Board, Jasmine Anteunis recently sat down with AIIA editor Megan Wright to explain how her background as an artist led her to creating bot platforms that truly understand the complexity of humans at Recast.AI.

From inspired beginnings

Anteunis’s career in AI began at art school, building on her passions for sculpture and printing. In 2013 she heard of the opening of 42, a private, nonprofit computer programming school in Paris.

42 was created and funded by a number of forward-thinking business gurus, including French billionaire Xavier Niel. The most remarkable aspect of this school is that it operates without any tuition.

“It’s strange,” said Anteunis. “You have no teachers, no real courses. But there are always projects that the students work together to build. I thought it sounded really interesting—a very different approach to education—so I decided to try it.”

With no background in coding, Anteunis signed up on the basis of curiosity and the potential for creativity, treating the experience as a “human adventure”. After two years, her decision paid off—not only in the lessons she learned in the institute, but in meeting her future co-founders of Recast.AI.

Read more: Consumer appetite for chatbot experiences on the rise

Setting up the business simply became another project for them to work on together and, given the autonomy and self-drive developed by the team during their post-graduate years, it did not take long for them to find new ways to exploit the advances being made in the tech world. Since its inception, the company has grown from a team of four to more than 20.

An evolving market

Recast.AI focuses on understanding the human language and has developed the first version of a platform for developers to build their own chatbots—a term that had not existed when the organization was formed.

“We were waiting to see how the markets evolved,” Anteunis said.

“Chatbots appeared when Facebook messenger just opened their API to developers and it was at that point we knew the chatbot revolution had arrived. Businesses everywhere at that point—around April 2016—began to ask whether they could make their own. So we were at the right place at the right time.”

Recast.AI saw a tidal wave of developers signing up to capitalize on the hype. Bigger businesses began to contact the team on fact-finding missions, trying to find out what chatbots could do and where the real benefits lay in generating revenue or improving customer experience.

chatbot hero

“We have advanced now to really focus on customer support because we really see that in a lot of big markets—primarily telecoms, energy, finance and insurance—these huge companies all have big customer support centers, and they receive a lot of calls and emails demanding interaction.”

The existing platform enables users to begin by automating responses to the most frequent questions. Given the widespread transition to digital services, the average customer is less patient than ever. That means a higher likelihood of demand for automation across all B2C markets—and therefore more willingness for businesses to invest in these capabilities.

The average customer is less patient than ever. That means a higher likelihood of demand for automation across all B2C markets.

This is not to say that the process is an easy one to get right. Testing of a conversational user experience requires speed and accuracy. Like any product, careful prototyping has been a vital step before scaling the solutions into a finished product.

A bright future ahead

Aside to the key aforementioned verticals, Recast.AI is also seeing an uptick in demand from the transportation industry—particularly with airlines and train companies struggling with high user demand and under real-time pressures—and from retail companies who have seized on the ability of chatbots to expand their sales touchpoints.

The organization is now doing its best to prepare for further growth to cope with the demand and to remain competitive as other startups and big businesses hope to muscle in.

“Just make the jump… in a few years, your competitors will be moving in. So, don’t wait. Do it now.”

In the past few days, Recast.AI announced that it is opening a new office in San Francisco, making it a multinational outfit. The US market is expected to lead the way in adoption of these advanced solutions.

So how can other enterprises in this space hope to make the best of the opportunities out there?

“Just make the jump,” is the advice from Anteunis. “It has to be now, because in a few months, in a few years, your competitors will be moving in. So, don’t wait. Do it now.”

Richard de Silva
Posted: 12/20/2017