Eloquent Labs Fuses Humans, Machines to Improve AIBy Ethan Aldrich
Eloquent Labs hybridizes humans and machines to build more accurate and cost-effective AI
Eloquent Labs develops conversational artificial intelligence to make it as easy to talk to a computer as it is to talk to a coworker. A Stanford-founded startup with $1.5M seed raised so far, Eloquent Labs is currently backed by Khosla Ventures.
The dorm room innovation: human processing units
In 2015, Keenon Werling, an undergraduate at Stanford, worked in the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab to advance techniques for text parsing with AI. In June 2015, he presented his paper and years of research on his state-of-the-art algorithm in Beijing at ACL, one of the world’s most prestigious computational linguistics conferences. To his disappointment, just days later, another paper was published that once again beat his numbers and rendered his years of work sub-optimal.
After a short break, Werling decide to take a more non-traditional approach to language processing. He published a paper on the unique hybridization of AI with humans and machines to build solutions more cost-effective than humans and more accurate than machines. Through his research, he discovered that hybridization makes it is possible to reduce costs by two orders of magnitude while maintaining human levels of accuracy with machines. Unlike traditional AI solutions, this hybrid requires low upfront costs because it can start with zero training examples and be human-only to start. As the AI learns from these human conversations, it will rely less and less on humans for help. Desiring to make a more lasting impact on the state of NLP this time around, Werling and his Stanford Ph.D. research partner Gabor Angel decided to utilize this knowledge in more practical work and founded Eloquent Labs upon Werling’s Stanford graduation in 2016.
Putting customer service departments on hyperdrive
Eloquent Labs makes customer service departments vastly more automated with AI. Today, customer service agents are often asked different variations of the same set of redundant questions by customers. When these companies subscribe to Eloquent Labs’ service, the AI learns from these customer to agent conversations. It quickly starts becoming self-sufficient and starts answering questions on its own, likely without any human intervention.
If the AI cannot interpret or answer a customer’s concern, it will automatically build a multiple choice question for a human agent to answer, so that it can get back to the customer. This hybrid solution vastly frees up company personnel to focus on more important tasks, while increasing the speed, consistency and satisfaction with which their customers are served.
Werling and Gabor believe that their hybrid AI technology can be applied to various different industries including healthcare and law. They strategically chose to solve customer service vertical first because it the easiest to enter and solve. For example, relative to other spaces, customer service has a relatively small regulatory footprint. Thus, there are less reporting requirements and artificial barriers to entry in trying a new product. Secondly, among SaaS businesses, customer service products tend to be easier to sell. They are easier to ramp up and test, while disruption to existing workflow can be minimized. Finally, the cost of errors is strictly lower in customer service departments than it might be at a doctor’s or lawyer’s office. Eloquent Labs believes that as it monetizes and proves its accuracy and cost effectiveness in customer service, barriers to entry in other spaces will decrease.
Giving machines true knowledge
Documents and knowledge bases are an integral part to any companies operations. Eloquent Labs latest product “Eloquent Knowledge” is working to give machines the ability to understand these components and allow people to access them in natural language. Through massive scale machine reading and natural language processing they want enterprises to improve efficiency at every level of operation.
By allowing its bots to understand, map, and analyze these huge knowledges bases of text, Eloquent’s language engine can now provide better responses to whomever is conversing with its bot.
Putting the feels in the bots
While Eloquent Labs continues to grow and improve its current applications, it is clear they are already looking to the future. Werling says he excited about “[making] the emotional parts of the bot much more human”. He wants customer service and bot dialog to feel more welcoming for users and to recreate the realistic and natural conversations we have with humans.
Language has the ability to induce powerful psychological effects and unlocking this will not only allow Eloquent to massive scale and improve their current product, but when this technology makes its way into more of our products, it is clear it will lay out massive implications for our daily lives.
Conversational UI is upon us, and its bigger than it sounds
Eloquent Labs innovation and work is providing us all with a glimpse of our future. Werling importantly reminded us that “the economy runs on conversations,” and we couldn’t agree more. Making these conversations more productive and enjoyable has massive implications on each and every industry and product around us.
Conversational UI is shaping up to replace the common GUI we know from practically every software product around. Bots with natural language are simply put more efficient for fine grained information retrieval and simplifying complicated GUIs.
Example of Eloquent Labs NLP
We have used language, not GUIs, to communicate and work for thousands of years, and bots are about to reinvogorate that world in an entirely classic and technologically advaced way.
The scientists can create real business growth
Werling says that at Eloquent there is “a unique intersection between state of the art AI research and building great products that people care about.”
Over the last two years, Werling and Gabor have advanced their research in hybrid NLP and also succeeded in productizing and proving their solution. Eloquent Labs has multiple large multi-national company partners, all of whom cannot be named because of NDAs, subscribed to the customer service platform.
To learn more about Eloquent, visit their website at: eloquent.ai.
This story was co-authored by Dasmer Singh.