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In the Heart of Silicon Valley


Monday, March 11, 2019

8:00 - 8:45

Keynote: Social Applications of Conversational Interfaces

Michael McTear, Professor, Ulster University

Conversational interfaces (also known as chatbots, virtual assistants, or digital assistants) have been used widely in business applications such as marketing and customer service. Increasingly attention is being directed to social and humanitarian uses of conversational interfaces, such as providing companionship and advanced home monitoring of the elderly, healthcare applications, dealing with harassment at work, providing people in developing countries with new forms of support, and many others. This talk presents some chatbot applications currently under development at Ulster University in the areas of monitoring the elderly at home, mental health support, and bibliotherapy for disadvantaged users, and examines the issues and technical challenges that these types of conversational application encounter. The talk concludes with a discussion of the current state of conversational interfaces and suggestions for future developments.



8:55 - 9:45

The state of conversational technology

Speech recognition and natural language understanding are developing technologies. What is their status today and how will they evolve?

  • Conversational AI: Separating Hype from Reality, Thomas Hebner, Worldwide Leader of Cognitive Innovation Group, Nuance Communications

  • Jimmy's World: Making sense of everyday life references, Eugene Joseph, CEO, North Side Inc.

  • Best kept secrets to deploying Assistants in the real world, Nico Acosta, Director of Product - Conversational AI, Twilio

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9:55 - 10:45

Case studies 1: Experience with deployed conversational systems

Examples often make clear the advantages and challenges of a conversational system. This session contains such examples of deployed systems and their results.

  • Examples of deployed digital assistants, William Meisel, TMA Associates

  • Conversational AI Best Practices – Real-world learnings working with the world’s largest financial institutions, Dror Oren, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder, Kasisto

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10:55 - 12:00

Customer service: Automation with natural language

Customers are frustrated with IVR menus. Improve self-service by letting them simply say or text about why they are contacting customer service.

  • Cisco e-Commerce: AI powered Chatbot, Gaurav Goyal, Principal Architect, Cisco Systems

  • How Conversational Intelligence Drives Exceptional Customer Service, Somya Kapoor, Head of Product, Aisera

  • The role of AI in financial services – how humans and machines will work together, Dr. Catriona Wallace, CEO and Founder, Flamingo AI

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The voice and personality of your application

The quality, naturalness, and "personality" of speech from an automated system can be a major determinant of its effectiveness.

  • Testing Bots with Bots: Conversational CX Gives Rise to a New Breed of Testers, Mike Monegan, Vice President Product Management, Cyara

  • Do as I Do, Not as I Say, Lisa Falkson, Senior VUI Designer, Amazon

  • Give your Digital Agent a Branded Voice with Emotional Intelligence and Personality – Quickly and Cost Effectively, Meir Friedlander, EVP, Product, Operation and Business Development, Speech Morphing

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Advanced features in conversational systems

Conversational systems can have advanced features such as security and dealing with more than one speaker in a conversation. 

  • Security and Fraud Prevention Using Biometrics, Mia Puzo, SME Manager, Biometrics and Security, Nuance Communications

  • Preserving Personal Privacy in Conversational Interactions with Digital Agents, Gerard Chollet, VP Research, Intelligent Voice

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Options in user interface design

Natural language processing technology can be poorly implemented. What are some of the considerations that make it most effective?

  • Which metaphors do and don't work for digital assistants?, Michael Greenberg, Voice User Interface Designer, Google

  • Affect, the ultimate differentiator - The Engineering of Emotion, Wolf Paulus, Principal Engineer, Intuit Futures, Intuit

  • Chat vs. Voice: The Future of Conversational AI, Arte Merritt, CEO & co-founder, Dashbot

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12:00 - 1:15

Lunch Break

1:15 - 2:15

Digital assistants and chatbots: The options

What are the options in interacting with digital systems with human ("natural") language? How does one judge the tradeoffs and platforms?

  • Behavioral Considerations in Developing Assistants - an Industrial Application View, Dan Bagley, Executive Chairman, Cepstral

  • Conversational commerce: emerging architectures for smart & useful chatbots, Victoria Livschitz, Founder and CTO, Grid Dynamics

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2:25 - 3:25

Digital Assistants in the Enterprise

Digital assistants can make employees more efficient, making the use of enterprise software and operations easier and thus more fully utilized. 

  • Chatbots/Digital Assistants in the Enterprise, Tina Kashyap, Product Manager, Kelly Services

  • David Nahamoo, CTO, Pryon

  • Collecting Data in the Food Supply Chain using voice interaction: Updated Case Study, John Swansey, CoFounder and Chief Design Officer, AgVoice

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3:35 - 4:15

Robots and social systems

Science fiction is coming closer to reality as limited-function robots reach commercial feasibility. Robots and other devices that simulate human traits must not only interact naturally, but display social awareness.

  • Designing Valuable Experiences for Social Robots, Matt Willis, Lead UX Designer, SoftBank Robotics America

  • Talking to Robots: Making it Work!, Charles Jankowski, Director, AI and Robotics, Cloudminds

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4:30 - 5:30

Best Practices in developing conversational systems

What practices will make a conversational system most effective?

  • We Are All Conversation Natives, Susan Hura, CEO, Banter Technology

  • Chatbots use cases: Follow the 4 F's framework, Pedro Andrade, Head of New Product Development, WIT Software

  • Virtual Assistants are both marvelous and god awful!, Alexandros Potamianos, CEO & co-Founder, Behavioral Signals

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Issues in creating conversational applications

Talking or text with a user of an application in a way that doesn’t require instruction or detailed prompts is clearly a potentially powerful way of interacting with an automated system. But there are challenges created by today’s state of technology.

  • Clarification and Error Recovery Dialogs, Marie Meteer, Senior Research Scientist, Pryon

  • Hearing sense in smart devices, Alexander Goldin, Founder & CEO, Alango Technologies

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Fitting the application: Differences driven by the environment and the user

Particular cases, such as hands- and eyes-free options in automobiles or home speakers and the availability of interface options other than speech, create specialized demands on a conversational system.

  • Conversation with cars: Present and future of in-car voice interfaces, Jay Goluguri, Lead Product Owner, Toyota Connected North America

  • Always on Voice - The Key for Conversational Interactions, Tali Chen, President, US and Chief Evangelist, DSP Group

  • Communications Next, Catelyn Orsini, Voice Interface Architect, Plantronics

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Building conversational systems that engage users

"Conversational" interfaces raise expectations. How can we best meet those expectations?

  • Like My Style: Conversation Style 101 for Bots, Sondra Ahlén, Principal VUI Consultant/Owner, SAVIC

  • Second dates with Alexa: Designing voice experiences that users come back to, Neha Javalagi, Lead, UX Research and Design, Witlingo

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Technology challenges in conversational systems

The technology supporting conversational systems has passed a “tipping point” of practical deployment, but is still evolving, and there are many challenges.

  • Wrangling the conversational Long Tail, Anish Mathur, Senior Offering Manager, IBM Watson

  • Internationalizing a conversational platform, Joseph Tyler, Senior Conversation Designer, Sensely

  • Beyond Chat Bots: Towards Truly Intelligent Conversational Agents, Peter Voss, CEO/ Chief Scientist,

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5:30 - 7:00

WELCOME RECEPTION Sponsored by Cepstral, Grid Dynamics and Interactions

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

8:00 - 9:00

Keynote panel: Building a digital assistant or chatbot--What works and what doesn't

Experienced experts will discuss the issues in building effective conversational systems. Is this a major trend or a fad? What is the status of the core technology and development tools? What are best practices? What are potential mistakes to avoid?

Dan Bagley, Executive Chairman, Cepstral; Phil Gray, EVP of Corporate Development, Interactions;

Victoria Livschitz, Founder and CTO, Grid Dynamics; Diego Ventura, CEO, noHold;



9:10 - 9:55

10:05 - 10:55

11:00 - 12:00

12:00 - 1:00

1:00 - 1:45

2:00 - 3:00

3:15 - 4:00

4:15 - 5:00

Digital assistants in customer service

Customer service is a key area where conversational systems can have an impact, getting away from a frustrating series of menus to a prompt such as “Please say why you are calling.”

  • A rose by any other name: the complexity of conversational design at scale, Editt Gonen-Friedman, Product Owner, CX Mobile Conversational AI, Oracle and Samrat Baul, Principal Conversation Design Lead, Oracle

  • Accelerating Customer Response with Natural Language Search, Praful Krishna, CEO, Coseer

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Understanding your customer: A key to effective conversational systems

There are many aspects to building a conversational system. But perhaps the most fundamental is understanding what the customer may say.

  • Unsupervised Speech and Text Analytics based on 'NLP Architect' by Intel AI-Lab, Moshe Wasserblat, NLP and DL Research Manager, INTEL

  • Analytics Powered by Conversation, Adrien Schmidt, CEO and Co-Founder,

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Making workers more efficient

Speech recognition and natural language understanding can be used to help workers do their jobs more efficiently.

  • Using Conversational AI to get the most out of your Enterprise Database, Diego Ventura, CEO, noHold

  • The Rise Of Voice-Activated Assistants In The Workplace, Cory Treffiletti, CMO, Voicera

  • How AI enables dynamic information access to a truly mobile retail workforce, Jesse Montgomery, Sr. Speech Technologist, Theatro

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Options in developing a conversational assistant

Involvement in building an intelligent virtual assistant can range from simply providing guidance and examples to a solutions provider to getting into the details. What are the options and tradeoffs?

  • Meet the Ultra Assistant, Maclen Marvit, CTO, SapientX

  • Fake it till you make it: Prototyping for Voice User Interfaces, Obaid Ahmed, CEO & Founder, Botmock

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Natural language interaction in complex customer service

Some customer service automation using speech or text interaction is complex due to the wide variation in the way requests are posed.

  • The Use of Chatbots And Machine Learning in the travel Industry, Maryna Shumaieva, Co-founder and CTO, CruiseBe, Inc.

  • The Future of Voice-based Intelligent Conversational Agents for the Enterprise, Itamar Arel, CEO, Apprente

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Naturally! Not so easy

When a digital system uses human language - "natural language" - it creates expectations. How well can today's technology meet those expectations?

  • An inter-lingual approach to dialogue understanding, Lisa Michaud, Director, Natural Language R&D, Aspect Software

  • Resources and tools for natural language design: intents and entities, Deborah Dahl, Conversational Technologies

  • Design and Evaluation of Multi-party Conversational Systems, Heloisa Candello, Research Scientist, IBM Research

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Lunch Break

Case studies 2: Experience with deployed conversational systems

Examples often make clear the advantages and challenges of a conversational system. This session contains such examples of deployed systems and their results.

  • Lessons Learned in Building a Conversational Chatbot using Open source Technologies, Saurav Chatterjee, Sr. Director, asurion

  • IBM Travel Concierge: Personalize Trip Planning through Natural Conversation, Guang-Jie Ren, Manager, re*THINK Enterprise, IBM Research

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Building digital assistants for smart speakers

Interaction with devices in the home by voice is a rapidly increasing trend. Check how you can connect with customers effectively through this channel and avoid customer frustration. 

  • Voice in Journalism - Product Managing the launch of a Voice Skill, Navya Nayaki Yelloji, Product Manager - Voice Platforms, Gannett - USA TODAY NETWORK

  • Ten Lessons Learned: Launching Voice Experiences for Clients, Brielle Nickoloff, Voice User Interface Designer, Witlingo

  • Creativity Under Constraint: Overcoming Technical Limitations for Great Conversational UX, Rebecca Evanhoe, VUI Designer, Mobiquity

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Case studies 3: Experience with deployed conversational systems

Experience with deployed conversational systems.

  • Working Voice into the Editorial and Product Workflow for News Companies, Kevin Goff, Technical Product Director, Gannett - USA TODAY NETWORKS

  • Dialog Management as a Key Technology for Conversational Systems, Nathan Ziv, VP, Product Management, Invoca

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Issues in conversational systems

Computer interaction with humans raises many issues such as privacy and how ambitious our goals should be.

  • The Turing test holds no value in assessing conversational AI, Puneet Mehta, Founder / CEO,

  • What we Believe About the Mind and How We Build AI, Robert Harris, President, Communications Advantage

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Natural language tools: A wide range of options

When “machine learning” is used to develop natural language applications, it can sound intimidating. This session presents insights making those technologies more accessible.

  • A data-driven approach to building AI-powered customer service virtual agents, Ofer Ronen, General Manager, Chatbase (Area 120 product at Google)

  • Deep Reinforcement Learning for Conversational AI, Dr. Sid J Reddy, Chief Scientist, Conversica

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Challenges in conversational interaction

Conversational interaction is a young technology. Some things you should consider…

  • Spoken, Knowledge-Grounded, End-to-End Dialog, Lazaros Polymenakos, Manager, IBM Research, Implicit Learning for Dialog

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to High-Density Natural Language Understanding, Yi Ma, Principal Scientist,

  • The Foresee Conversational Framework, Andy Tarczon, Director of Strategy & Insights, VMLY&R

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Creative improvement to the user experience

Conversational technology is evolving rapidly as we learn how to make it more effective in all situations.

  • The Career of a Conversation Designer:  How it's evolved and what it takes to succeed, Jared Strawderman, UX Designer/Head of UX Framework, Google Assistant, Google

  • How In-Queue Music and Messaging Slays the “On-Hold” Problem, Marcus Graham, Founder & CEO, GM Voices

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Managing the conversation

Simple interchanges such as a Question/Answer session serve their purposes, but a full conversation can involve dialog.

  • How digital assistants can positively impact small to medium size businesses, Ketan Shah, CEO, Agentz

  • The future of messaging as a platform, Mike Gozzo, CTO, Smooch

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