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Conversations V: CAI Market to Reach 41 Billion by 2026
On June 21-22 Conversations V, a leading Conversational AI conference for business and developers, gathered over 500 participants offline and online, where 58 speakers from Russia, the United States, and Europe shared the latest stats, use cases, and success stories.
The event opened with analytics from Kirill Petrov, managing director and co-founder of Just AI. He stated that the conversational AI market in Russia had passed the peak of inflated expectations (according to Gartner’s hype cycle) and was now adding 110% per year. He also added that, in 5-10 years, voice assistants and chatbots would be deeply integrated into everyday life. According to Petrov, by 2026, the market could grow 12-fold and reach 41 billion rubles (over $560 million).
«Conversational UX is not a revolution, but a gradual emergence of yet another user interface,» said Kirill Petrov. “NLP and virtual assistants are now in the active pilot phase in large businesses and the monitoring phase in medium-sized businesses. Large corporations rely on generic tools, medium-sized businesses need custom solutions for specific needs, while small businesses need out-of-the-box products and services».
In five years, specialized solutions for medium-sized and small businesses are expected to comprise half of Russia’s conversational AI market. As Gleb Oblomsky, CPO at Just AI, stated in his Conversations talk, OOB conversational AI solutions would grow by 100-120% per year, as many industries are looking to deploy them — from the healthcare and HoReCa to e-commerce and travel, to beauty and much more. Some of the ready-to-use offerings are already available in the Just AI Solution Store.
One of the central themes at Conversations V was customized assistants for business. This is a growing trend: from the launch of the Alexa Custom Assistant platform in the US to the conversational AI boom in Russia’s fintech industry. Alfa-Bank, one of Russia’s leading financial institutions, presented their custom voice assistant Alf and talked about the experiments in Sound Design, Sound UX, and teaching humor to the bot.
«The digital industry is phasing out buttons. The touch tap is disappearing and voice is becoming the center of product control. The industry is evolving driven by the idea of multimodality, based on a voice-first approach and equally important visual and audio components,» said Vladimir Kitlyar Alfa Bank’s Digital CPO.
Another major financial institution, Tinkoff bank, is actively enhancing its Oleg voice assistant: more than 1 million Tinkoff Mobile users rely on the free «Oleg Answers» phone secretary service, and the assistant itself has already handled over 120 million calls. At Conversations V, Konstantin Rubtsov, head of product at Tinkoff, told that part of the audience prefers voice interaction: 5% of clients send voice messages to the mobile banking app, and 11% of financial skills users interact with the assistant by voice. At the same time, Sber’s SmartMarket technology platform development director Irina Sovik noted that voice banking scenarios were also popular at Sber, such as the «Salute, transfer» skill.
However, companies behind Russia’s top voice assistants have different views on competing with custom business assistants. «A business assistant can’t compete with a general-purpose one in terms of answer quality — how well the assistant answers certain questions. A banking assistant, I’m sure, is asked a million more questions besides banking services, and to keep up with the level of a general-purpose assistant, one needs to make significant investments,» Alexey Fivintsev, product manager at Mail.ru Group, noted during the Q&A session.
«It seems to me that creating niche assistants is a very natural direction. But it won’t be much of a voice assistant rather voice interfaces for a channel the user understands. When a customer comes to a bank or telecom company, they talk about what they need from a particular service. They won’t be asking about the weather,» said Pavel Kaplya, head of the Yandex.Dialogs service.
One of the main ideas that many Conversations speakers articulated was that virtual assistants are gradually becoming part of the brand’s identity. “Empathy, Engagement and Error messages — these are the three cornerstones of why I think it’s essential to have a personality in your robot,” said Jason F. Gilbert, character designer at Intuition Robotics.
Also at Conversations, they discussed how to make bots smarter with the help of discourse management, teach them to recognize speech defects, use voice personalization technologies, voice biometrics, and most importantly, how to use voice assistants to improve the customer experience, increase sales, and save on costs.
The next Conversations conference is scheduled for the end of 2021. You can follow the updates on the project’s website.