Sunday, December 11, 2011

Natural Language Interfaces

Here at Roistr, we're working to push the boundaries of UX as hard as we can. We're just a small company but very motivated and passionate about ensuring the best possible UX for everyone.

Does our work have any effect on this desire? Well yes. The deeper part is that we're pushing hard to make the next generation of natural language interfaces. Our ultimate goal is to pass the Turing test and many very capable people have failed. It's good to have an ambition though :-)

So what role does the current incarnation of our semantic relevance engine have on natural language interfaces?

We can reduce the amount of effort it takes to get things done which is good UX in my book. For example, in one business use case we have for recruiters, we can storm ahead easily. I recently looked at one recruitment website and it took me 20 minutes to go through the sign-up forms before I got fed up and abandoned the process.

With Roistr, I just upload a resume or CV, and that can be used to match me to particular jobs. Plus it does a reasonable job of matching which is great news. Uploading a resume or even copying / pasting it is much quicker than having to type in my work details *yet again*.

Another thing Roistr can do is to understand what concepts lie at the heart of what people write. I've used it already in tests to elicit the core concept from a document and it works surprisingly well. This can be used for automatic summarisation, categorisation and a whole host of other applications.

We're planning a sitemap tool whereby we can use a content breakdown and reform it into an information architecture. In my own experience of card sorts, people organise content according to meaning (whether topic or function) and being able to access similarity of meaning means that we're able to associate similar things. From this, we can build an IA in just a few seconds even for large amounts of content that couldn't realistically be put into a card sort.

Another possibility is making the job of keeping content useful easier. We're considering writing an extension for SharePoint that organises content according to meaning, much like a human would. We can also identify possible duplicates which for large corporate intranet sites is very useful. A better UX is provided by providing content that is up-to-date, timely and relevant so Roistr can play a big role in making the world a more sensible place.

As I said, our ultimate aim is to have a machine that you can have a sensible conversation with; something that's not like talking to a socially-inappropriate amnesiac but more like a real person. The possibilities we have are endless...

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