O’Reilly hosted the Fluent conference back in April, targeting web developers interested in hearing from experts about all the latest development tools and trends. Stew Nickolas from IBM offered an interesting keynote on Conversational Computing and you can watch this video of his full presentation.
As with all great keynotes, Nickolas didn’t just talk. He gave an impressive demo of a voice driven “robot” that he’d programmed using IBM’s Bluemix development platform. Nickolas could control the little ball-shaped robot’s colors and behaviors by talking in natural language to a command center in the cloud.
The purpose of the demo was to whet the appetite of web developers for the possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as to alert them to the full buffet of ready-built APIs available in Bluemix.
One of the APIs that Nickolas leverages in his keynote demo is the Bluemix Speech to Text service that uses IBM Watson technology. While this service by itself doesn’t include natural language processing capabilities, it uses various machine intelligence techniques to generate a more accurate transcription. You can give the service a test run in the live demo.
You can pair the Speech to Text module with something called the AlchemyAPI to build smart apps that can interpret natural language and also images. With those powers, your app could understand conversations, documents, and photos. The AlchemyLanguage product offers a wide range of capabilities, including keyword extraction, entity extraction, sentiment analysis, concept tagging, text extraction, and more.
The Bluemix services catalog includes a natural language classifer, machine translation, question and answer services, cognitive graph, and many more useful APIs. Most of the services appear to still be in beta and are currently offered for free. The AlchemyLanguage API is free for up to 1K transactions per day and $250/month for up to 90K transactions a month.
Conversational Computing doesn’t appear to be a widely used term yet, but the concept is central to intelligent assistants. The IBM Bluemix set of services is worth a look if you’re thinking about building the next great mobile personal assistant or other specialized smart app.