Virtual voice assistants have changed the communication landscape. The technology is here, but is it as efficient as we believe? Hear the story of Walter Angerer when he tried to continue talking with his digital assistant after it had navigated him to a website. In short, it wasn’t working. He was let down by the fact that the WEB wasn’t part of the voice revolution and it became apparent to him that he needs to change that for an integrated WEB experience. He believed that what we really needed was a real AI with a language processing engine that could discern what people wanted when they spoke and respond in an intelligent way. That’s when Walter established speak2web to address this problem and take the WEB to the next level. Founded in 2018, Walter knew that e-commerce sites would benefit a lot from digital assistants. “Using that insight, we managed to get early traction with large companies, and we had a chance to take the technology to its next level,” he recalls.
Here’s a detailed conversation about AI and digital assistants with Walter.
It’s been a year since speak2web was established. How has the journey been?
I have been engaged with AI since the late 1990s. My passion for AI never reduced and I was thrilled to see the advancements in AI over the years. In 2018, I started focusing on the natural language processing and voice capabilities of AI. The earlier versions were frustrating and when this technology finally reached a level of accuracy, there was a surprising delight about its abilities. Recognizing that voice is ready for prime time I decided to take a closer look into its usage and ability. It was at that time that I realized that the WEB itself seems to be falling behind when it comes to usage of voice and I decided to bring together a group of talented people to take on the challenge of adding voice to the WEB. This led to the launch of speak2web.
Can you tell us about the products and services speak2web offers?
We offer access to AI and Virtual Voice Assistant to clients of all sizes. Some of our larger enterprise clients are looking for an entirely customized experience, including a deep integration into their backend systems. With this, we provide our clients with a completely new experience for their customers. For the first time, users can ask a regular question (natural language question) and the system will engage the full digital power of AI to find an accurate answer. With this technology, we are taking the WEB to the next level.
For smaller businesses, we offer a turnkey “DIY” solution that can bring a simple virtual voice assistant and voice navigation to their webpage within minutes. In some cases, we build custom voice driven workflows for clients. At times, we use this to voice enable software applications and often it is used to voice activate workflows on the WEB. In both cases, the ability to insert our voice and AI technology in an easy and minimally invasive way allows our clients to rapidly take advantage of the new technology.
What are the pain points of the industry addressed by the company?
Our company addresses a number of pain points. The most obvious pain point for companies is to efficiently and accurately convey their story to their audience. Today, companies attempt to do that by displaying headlines in big letters, displaying images and flashing buttons to click. Yet, the message is the same for everyone who visits the portal regardless of what the user’s questions or interests are.
We provide the user with relevant information quickly and remove confusing and/or frustrating content. We understand the user’s question and intent because they typically engage in a dialog with the AI and share more insight into what he/she actually wants rather than just a generic keyword. More importantly, we guide the customer in a natural way. If the user asks: “a flight ticket from MSP to SFO; outbound next Thursday; return on Saturday; no layover Economy plus fair,” we can return the result they need in one shot.
AI and digital assistants are getting a big boost today. How is your company positioned in the current market scenario?
Our company is ahead of the curve with its product and approach. This puts our company into a position where we do not need to worry about competitors, but it also means that our clients- many times need to first understand what we do since it is different to everything else they have seen so far. So our company is a trailblazer when it comes to adding Virtual Voice Assistant and AI to the WEB. Because of the unique offering we brought to the market, we have now clients in several countries including Germany, Turkey, India, and Canada.
A speak2web client carries several million SKUs from over a thousand different suppliers in their e-commerce store. The challenge is finding the perfect product for customers as there are many variations of a similar product. Keywords and elastic search had a limited ability to help. “With the help of AI and natural language processing we have been able to take the customer experience to the next level,” proudly notes Walter. Understanding the natural language query, mapping relevant characteristics and parameters were utilized. It helped lead the customer easily and quickly to a small selection of products and accurately matching their search.
“Our next step with this client is to deploy deep learning and knowledge tree technology to go beyond the current filter and search capabilities of the system,” he says. Once fully implemented, this new system will be able to find the proverbial needle in a haystack with a mind-blowing accuracy within seconds. This solution will be first in this industry and will change the shopping experience for good.
What is the road map ahead?
We just released the WordPress self-serve plugin, which adds a simple virtual voice assistant to WordPress pages within minutes. Our next focus is to proliferate the plugin to other web technologies. Also, soon to come is a “Voice Search” and “Voice Form” plugin for WordPress. That plugin will add voice capabilities to search and or Web Forms. This plugin will not provide the full set of features the Virtual Voice Assistant brings to the table, but it greatly simplifies web search and filling out forms on the web, especially if the user comes from a mobile device.
Also coming out this year, we plan to release a voice driven online market called Simon’s Market. Simon’s Market will be a 100% voice driven virtual shopping mall where consumers and customers can interact with virtual assistants via voice to find what they are looking for. In parallel to expanding the product offering, we are also expanding our geographical reach. We are in the process of expanding our business into Canada and Europe.
Leading the voice revolution
Walter Angerer, Founder and CEO
Prior to founding speak2web Walter has been leading several companies as CEO and worked as a partner in a California based Venture Capital firm. Before that, Walter led large business units in publicly traded companies where he managed to launch new product lines that increased the annual product revenue by several hundred million. Walter first engaged with AI in the late 1990s when he created a ground-breaking AI solution to control the electrical grid. That technology was later used as the foundation for what is today known as the “SmartGrid” technology. Walter holds a Master’s degree in physics from the Johannes Kepler University in Austria.
“With this technology, we are taking the WEB to the next level.”