Omega Is will.i.am’s Dreamy New AI Voice Assistant

Thursday, September 27, 2018
CRM.org
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Wednesday’s Dreamforce 18 conference was all about AI. One of the most exciting presentations was will.i.am’s dreamy new AI assistant, Omega, and not just because it’s refreshing to have a charming creative on stage who actually knows how to entertain a crowd but mostly because Omega, is a pretty huge prospect within the AI world.

Beginning with an intelligent watch design, Salesforce has backed will.i.am’s software for years. Expanding the software into a 'cross-domainability' software, Omega was born.

If you have any doubts about a pop start backing an ambitious AI startup, just look at the stats. Will.i.am's company, i.am+, employs over 300 people around the world. Within the last year, the company reportedly received $117 million in venture funding, including an $89 million investment by a group that includes Salesforce Ventures.

Poised to be a competitor of Amazon’s Alexa for Business, Omega is differentiated by her personality and ability to have a real conversation with the user.

The above video, shown at will.i.am’s Dreamforce 2017 presentation demonstrates a few subtle, yet critical defining features of Omega’s voice software, including impeccable telephony skills (the ability to have either a one-on-one or third-party conversation) and impressive contextual understanding.

With Omega, you’ve got speech recognition and text to speech, something all AI assistants require. But where “the magic happens” is in the natural language understanding (NLU) core. This is where Omega’s identity comes into play. An identity full of personal opinion and personality.

While most of Omega’s design capabilities are subtle, almost going unnoticed, they only display further her success.

At this years Dreamforce 18, will.i.am is joined by Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan, co-founder of i.am+, to discuss in detail the amazing potential of Omega’s cross-domainability features and what that means for retail.

Cross-domainability, a term the company literally had to invent because no other software exists like it, is an architecture built by i.am+ that addresses a big issue in the tech world: the island of apps we all cohabitate.

Currently we have several apps floating in our phones, the problem is that they don’t speak to each other. Will.i.am complains “music doesn’t talk to news, news doesn’t talk to maps.” But Omega does. Using Beyonce as an example, will.i.am demonstrates how the user can ask Omega to play songs, find nearby concerts, book tickets, plus discover and book a restaurant near the concert- all with one contextual starting point, the megastar herself- Beyonce.

The cross-domainability feature offers a lot of potential for the future of business, and especially the future of retail. As Rathakrishnan points out, we all shop, “it’s a fundamental thing we do.” So how does Omega help out?

According to the i.am+ co-founder, it’s as simple as “press and hold.” Rathakrishnan prompts Omega and lists off a bunch of random items ranging from groceries to batteries. Omega’s response? A total amount for all items. Need to change the brand of an item? No problem. You can literally do all your shopping while standing in front of an open, empty fridge. If that’s not a demonstration of ‘the future is now’, then we don’t know what is.  

The future of retail is, “speak and things arrive.”

But before you get all freaked out and worry about losing your retail job or wonder if Omega is actually a stand-in for a Samantha-type character from Her, keep this in mind: Omega’s personality is built solely to “meet the customer where they’re at.”

I.am+ built an ark with Salesforce which has been taken to the next level by the Omega Management Platform (OMP), which “allows companies to create intent and contextual dialogues while engaging in conversational computing.” Salesforce will be integrating the OMP into their Einstein architecture bot and their Salesforce platform. Salesforce Omega integration offers a whole way to engage and interact with customers in the most natural way possible. 

With Omega, the intent is not to use AI to replace jobs. Both Rathakrishnan and will.i.am believe AI should enhance jobs, “AI should help humanity out, not take us to a place where we’re concerned about tomorrow.” The idea is to turn employees into super-employees.

It is truly an impressive feat for voice AI technology.

Live in Austria since April, Omega’s conversation engine and cross-domainability features certainly change the AI game. And it's not just AI that's the gamechanger, with will.i.am behind Omega, an element of style is finally being brought into the world of tech. Gone are the days of dorky hip-clip Blackberry-holder devices and in with the discreet, minimalist style of AI headphones and a confidently functioning AI software. 

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