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In the Heart of Silicon Valley

SAVE THE DATE - March 11-12, 2019


Held on February 5 & 6, 2018

Check back for updates on the 2019 program

OPENING KEYNOTE: What are the limits of speech recognition accuracy?

Xuedong Huang, Technical Fellow, Microsoft AI and Research, Microsoft


Spoken language technologies benefited tremendously from the latest progress in machine learning and knowledge engineering. We have reduced the telephony conversational speech recognition error rate to 5.1% on the Switchboard task approaching the level of professional transcribers. Speech-based personal assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, OK Google, and Siri are being broadly adopted. There are still new challenges in dealing with accented speech, far-field speech, cocktail party speech, and contextual understanding. I will share major lessons learned in advancing modern spoken language systems that are used from Microsoft products such as Cortana, Microsoft Translator, and Cognitive Services.

TRACK 1: Trends and Applications

Digital assistants and bots: A range of options

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

  • The State of Conversational Interfaces, Yann Motte, VP of Strategy & Business Development, Nuance Communications 

  • The branded company digital assistant: Its role and evolution, William Meisel, President, TMA Associates

  • Conversational Interactions with Your Car, Tom Schalk, Vice President, Voice Technology, SiriusXM

Automating customer service

Customers are frustrated with overly structured IVR menus or waiting for an agent. There are better options.

  • Kasisto Case Study – Changing the Face of Banking, Dror Oren, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder, Kasisto

  • Integrating natural language understanding with applications, Deborah Dahl, Principal, Conversational Technologies

Options in developing a conversational assistant

There are many options in conversational systems. What are the major trends and options available?

  • Natural Language: designing the voice interface of tomorrow, Eduardo Olvera, Director of User Experience, Nuance Cognitive Innovation Group

  • Care and Feeding your Virtual Assistant, Richard Miller, Ph.D, Architect, Oracle Engagement Cloud

TRACK 2: How to do it right

Building digital assistants for home devices

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

  • Your Voice Assistant in the Home, Eduardo Olvera, Director of User Experience, Nuance Cognitive Innovation Group

  • On Product Managing the Launch of an Alexa Skill, Navya Nayaki Yelloji, Product Manager, Witlingo

  • The Easiest Way to Create an Alexa Skill or Google Action, Diego Ventura, CEO and founder, noHold

Speech Recognition and natural language technology

"Natural language understanding" - speech or text - is a developing technology. What is the status today and how will it evolve?

  • Cognitive Architectures: The Third Wave of Conversational Agents, Peter Voss, Founder and CEO, AGI Innovations Inc

  • Capturing Voice Characteristics in a conversational interface, Brian Garr,  Chief Revenue Officer, GoVivace

Creating an effective user experience

The danger of a natural language interface is that it might create overly high expectations for a user. How do we address this issue?

  • Prosody for Conversational Discourse, Joseph Tyler, Conversation Designer, Sensely

  • Making Good Conversation: Tips for Bots and Their Humans, Sondra Ahlén, Principal VUI Consultant and Owner, SAVIC

KEYNOTE PANEL: Key issues companies face in using conversational interaction

A discussion of the issues in using natural language interaction. What is the status of the technology today? What is the current level of user acceptance? What tools and services are available to help create effective natural language interaction better and more easily? 

  • Glen Shires, Principal Software Engineer, Google Research

  • Jay Wilpon, Senior VP, Natural Language Research, Interactions

  • Ofer Ronen, General Manager, Chatbase

  • Jay Naik, SVP, R&D Lead Chief Technology Officer, CitiGroup

TRACK 1: Trends and Applications

Digital assistants in customer service

Company-specific virtual assistants can interact through many channels by voice or text to make it easier for a customer to use self-service.

  • Case study: Multi-channel troubleshooting assistant, Ingmar Kliche, Senior Project Manager, Deutsche Telekom

  • Virtual assistants in customer service, George Skaff, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Enterprise Division, Nuance Communications

  • A time to reinvent chatbots, Praful Krishna, CEO, Coseer

Options in user interface design

Natural language interaction doesn't stand alone. It can be supported by GUIs and other options.

  • Multimodal dialog systems for language learning, Vikram Ramanarayanan, Research Scientist, Educational Testing Service

  • Balancing Human Senses: The Key to Natural, Intuitive Augmented Reality?, Catelyn Orsini, Voice Interface Architect, Plantronics

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.

  • The voice of your application, Dan Bagley, Executive Chairman, Cepstral

  • Branded TTS voices for multi-domain virtual agent IVR, David Teeple, Senior Linguist Manager, Speech Morphing, Inc.

  • Affect in Bot Conversations, Wolf Paulus, Principal Engineer, Intuit

Delivering what users want

Building a virtual agent can be aided by tools. This session discusses effective options.

  • What you need to know about training the digital virtual agent, Brett Knight, Digital Product Manager, United Services Automobile Association (USAA)

  • 10 Key Learnings From Having Built more than 100 Chatbots, Aakrit Vaish, Co-Founder & CEO, Haptik

  • Multi-Factor Voice, Leor Grebler, CEO, UCIC

TRACK 2: How to do it right

Creating effective Conversational User Interfaces

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

  • Setting Up Your Bots for Conversational Success, Rurik Bradbury, Global Head of Conversational Strategy, LivePerson

  • It’s not just how you say it, it’s what you say: Improving response generation in conversational agents, Marie Meteer, Associate Professor, Brandeis University

Building conversational systems in difficult environments

Environments that are noisy and/or involve talking at a distance from the microphone are particularly difficult. How can these challenges be addressed?

  • Hands-Free Computing - Real World Devices using Voice, Chris Parkinson, Chief Technology Officer, RealWear

  • Talking Heads are Invading Your Car, David Colleen, CEO, SapientX

  • Creating High-Fidelity Conversations in a Low-Fidelity Environment, Cathy Pearl, VP of User Experience, Sensely

Day 2 - Tuesday February 6th

TRACK 1: Trends and Applications

Making workers more efficient

Speech recognition and digital assistants can be used to help workers do their jobs more efficiently.

  • Analytics Powered by Conversation, Adrien Schmidt, CEO, Bouquet

  • Mobile Voice Interaction for Outdoor Workers:  Updated Case Study in Agriculture, John Swansey, Co-founder and Chief Design Officer, AgVoice

Options in natural language automation

"Natural language" interaction with digital systems is not always as natural as we would like. How do we avoid frustrating users that may have high expectations?

  • Abandon These Design Patterns to Build Better Conversational Experiences, Cami Williams, Senior Alexa Evangelist, Amazon

  • Using the Technology of Conversation to Build Better Technology for Conversation, Peggy Szymanski, Conversation Analyst, IBM Almaden Research Lab

Customer service with natural language

A "conversation" with customers should feel like a conversation with an agent. This session suggests how you can meet this tough objective.

  • Effortless Customer Care Utilizing AI and Human Understanding, Michael Johnston, Director of Research & Innovation, Interactions

  • Overcoming Barriers to Conversational Customer Care, Darla Tucker, Director, Customer Solutions, Convergys

Digital Assistants in the Enterprise

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

  • Conversational AI: What we’ve learned from millions of AI conversations for thousands of customers, Sid J Reddy, Chief Scientist, Conversica

  • Retail’s Impending Demise: are the rumors greatly exaggerated? How Theatro is using speech technology to transform brick-and-mortal retail, Jesse Montgomery, Senior Speech Technologist, Theatro Labs

  • Enterprise Digital Assistants Patterns & Use Cases, Editt Gonen-Friedman, Product Owner, Natural Language Interfaces, Oracle CX Cloud Mobile, Oracle Corporation

TRACK 2: How to do it right

Speech recognition in difficult environments

Speech recognition can be a challenge in noisy environments or when speaking at a distance from the microphone, but there are ways to reduce the challenge.

  • Harnessing Signal DNA: Bringing AI to the Cocktail Party, Hamid Nawab, Chief Scientist, Yobe

  • Designing Conversational AI Devices in a Day, Saleel Awsare, Vice President and General Manager, Audio and Imaging Business, Synaptics

Building conversational systems

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

  • Conversational building blocks, what it takes to build great conversational experiences, Nicolas Acosta, Director of Product, Twilio

  • Using Analytics to Personalize the Conversation, Stephanie Laureys, Director of Client Services, Versay Solutions, LLC

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?

  • How to save time optimizing bots, Ofer Ronen, General Manager, Chatbase

  • Wanted: Conversational UX Designers, Bob Moore, Research Scientist, IBM Research-Almaden

Panel: Dialog Management as a Key Technology for Conversational Systems

A true "conversation" involves continued interaction, rather than a simple request and response. Maintaining context is key. What technology is necessary to support a dialog?

  • Ilya Gelfenbeyn, Lead Product Manager, Dialogflow at Google

  • Alborz Geramifard, Machine Learning Manager at Amazon

  • Nirmal Mukhi, Master Inventor at IBM Watson Education

Keynote: Using Voice to Transform Retail

Andrew Sun, VP of Strategic Partnerships, Walmart


The internet is rapidly changing how people shop.  First there was eCommerce, then mobile and now conversational interaction. 

Each represents a paradigm shift for consumers and the retailers trying to reach them.  What is the state of the technology today?  What does this mean for customers?  How will this impact retail?  

Carrying on the Conversation

Our objective in allowing conversation with computers is for it to be as intuitive as possible.  But there are limitations to the technology.  How do we best deal with those limitations.

  • Amazon Alexa: What, why, and why now?, Christina Meyer, Senior UX Designer, Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) team, Amazon

  • Would You Care to Try a Chardonnay?, Lisa Michaud, Director, Natural Language Processing, Aspect

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

Particular cases, such as hands- and eyes-free options in automobiles or the limitations of the user, drive specific demands on a conversational system.

  • Aspects of Virtual Assistance for the Elderly, Nava Shaked, Faculty, HIT- Holon Institute of Technology

  • Conversational Intelligent Assistant for Kids, Tim R. Connelly, Founder, CEO/CFO, Siliconic Home

Challenges in conversational interaction

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

  • On Making the Web Voice Friendly, Vinita Atre, UX, Associate Designer, Witlingo

  • Bot-to-Bot Conversations - Automated Testing for Empathetic Interaction in Healthcare, Peter Boda, Co-Founder and Head of Patient Experience,

Building voice-interactive systems

Speech recognition allows voice interaction with systems and devices. This session discusses options including speech recognition on the device and in the cloud.

  • Deploying Speech Recognition and Biometrics in Consumer Electronics...what we learned in real world experience, Locke Chastaine, Director of Licensing & Corporate Counsel, Sensory

  • Voice in Autonomous Vehicles, Lisa Falkson, Voice User Interface Expert, Consultant

  • Successful Use of Conversational Systems in Education in Asia, David Topolewski, CEO, Qooco

Natural language tools: A wide range of options

Discussions of machine learning sometimes imply that large amounts of labelled data are required to create advanced natural language interfaces. But a number of vendors offer solutions that require fewer examples.

  • Linguistic vs machine learning? Why the real winner is a mixed approach, Zachary Wilkins, Senior Computational Linguist, Artificial Solutions

  • Got Data? The Importance of High-Quality Data for Building Effective Language-Based Solutions, James Lyle, Director, Custom Linguistic Solutions, Appen

Options you should know about

Options that can be critical to the success of a conversational application.

  • Next frontier in Interactive Advertising, Jagadish Nomula, CTO,

  • Why broader language understanding matters in vertical applications, Eugene Joseph, Founder and CEO, North Side Inc.

  • Multi-modality and Trust In Conversational Interfaces, Mark Stephen Meadows, Founder & CEO, Botanic Technologies

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