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Microsoft Azure: Building Smart Chat bots Using Cognitive Services

Android Developer

Posted 11th March 2019.

In my last post, I introduced Microsoft Azure’s Cognitive Services suite and its potential to make mobile apps smarter, more engaging, and more contextually relevant for users. I highlighted 3 APIs out of the many that are offered: Custom Decision Service, Content Moderator, and the Speaker Recognition API.

A driving point behind my last article was that users now expect a higher standard of experience from mobile apps. Users want effortless interaction; experiences that are catered to them; and apps that understand intent with less input and fewer taps. In other words, your customers want apps that are smart. Due to advances in artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning, this is becoming more easily possible.

This time, I will be focusing on Microsoft Azure’s Cognitive Services Language and Knowledge APIs in relation to chat-bots and automated customer service in mobile apps. Specifically, I will be discussing the Language Understanding Intelligent Service and the QA Maker API, and how they can be used together to enhance your mobile app.
Before I dive into Cognitive Services, I want to give context on why chat bots and human-machine interaction are important for building smarter, more engaging mobile apps.

First, usage of messaging apps has surpassed usage of social media apps. Messaging apps like Whats-app are exhibiting some of the highest growth of any app category. Your customers are already familiar and engaged with this medium. And many prefer to interact with your business this way – 45% of consumers claim they would rather use messaging than email to contact a business, and almost 50% preferring messaging over phone (Godsend’s 2016 Mobile Messaging Report). Offering a channel for them to interact with your brand in a way they prefer is only logical.

Second, the adoption rate for chat-bots is already high. In fact, a survey by BI Intelligence found that almost 60% of users between the ages of 18 and 55 have used chat-bots.

Third, the nature of mobile apps invites immediacy. Users have access anytime, from anywhere. They want to be able to do things when they want. It’s no surprise then that Godsend’s 2016 Mobile Messaging Report found that 51% customers think businesses should be available 24/7.

The case for chat-bots is clear. Your customers want to use messaging to interact with your business, and they want communication lines open 24/7. With human operators, this is highly-labor intensive, expensive, and often impractical. Human-computer interaction via chat-bots is a promising solution.

However, there is a right way to do things. As Octane AI CEO Matt Schlitz points out, chat-bots that function based on AI and machine learning are far more sophisticated than those based on rules, able to understand language and get smarter based on the conversations they have. Today, rule-based chat bots simply don’t offer the experience users expect. Chat bots need to be intelligent.

The Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) works to help your mobile app or bot understand the intent behind user actions and commands in order to provide the right response. It allows you to develop your own language models and also comes with a number of pre-built language models that can be implemented directly. Like other Cognitive Services, LUIS learns and improves as it receives more data, meaning it becomes smarter with more interactions. Here is an example of how LUIS works.

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