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Nuance talks up enhancements to Nina platform

Firm adds text-interaction for the web.

Nuance has expanded its customer assistant service Nina so that it now supports text-based interaction with potential customers on the web.

The firm has recognised that voice recognition may not be suitable for all interactions and is keen to address this point to make automated tasks a reality for businesses.

"Speech is not for everything We need to cater to the modality the user wants to choose," Sebastian Reeve, director of strategy EMEA at Nuance, told journalists during a briefing.

"We're expanding Nina going from the mobile virtual assistant to taking a cross-channel role. We're adding interactive voice response (IVR), web and deeper text capabilities."

The additions to Nina are three fold:

Nina Web  will now allow customers to have human-like conversations when they are browsing a website. If you're looking to buy sofa, you could ask Nina to search the site. However, instead of Nina just providing you with a list of products, the assistant would ask what type of sofa you want and then give specific recommendations based on your answers. When it comes time to checkout Nina could also boost upselling by suggesting add-ons.

Nina Agent  will allow business to connect Nina to their contact centres and seamlessly hand over a customer to a human representative if Nina is unable to assist with a query.

Language  Nina now supports 38 speech and text-to-speech languages along with 13 text-input languages.

At present the cloud service will be hosted by Nuance but Reeve confirmed that when UK customers come on board data will be hosted in European datacentres in places such as Slough. On-premise editions may be deployed in the future, but at present Nuance claims hosting on behalf of customers will help businesses save money as they don't have to provide the vast processing power.

Speech recognition is taking off with Nuance confirming that five billion voice interactions have now taken place in the last five years. These have occurred over a range of services from mobile virtual assistance, to transcribing voicemail and input through the firm's Swype keyboard. However, these do not include transactions which have been performed using Apple's Siri platform, which Nuance also helps to power and so in reality should be higher.

As it continues with its quest to help businesses to automate simple, high volume tasks, Nuance is in advanced talks with a number of institutions in the UK. However, Reeve told IT Pro that it could be a year until we see such implementations from UK banks, for example, because of compliance and testing purposes.

The firm is also focussing on boosting the automation of hotel and flight check-ins, and is exploring how its software can be used with pizza delivery services.

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