This guide discusses the increasingly important implications of advances in artificial intelligence dealing with human language—“conversational” interaction with digital systems. The bulk of the report, at almost 500 pages, is intended as a reference, a guide to which companies can help the reader achieve personal or company objectives using this technology. Those objectives might be to use the technology to help interact with one’s company customers or help employees within your company be more efficient. If you are one of the companies participating in this trend or planning to do so, the report can provide guidance in competitive opportunities.

 

 Report Outline

Introduction 
An overview of the guide, with suggestions on how to use it efficiently to meet your goals.

Digital Assistants: Categories 
A discussion of variations in text- and voice-based conversational systems, including channels through which they are addressed, and the implications of those differences. 

A major trend
“Conversational” interfaces are a major trend in the way people interact with digital services and systems. This section discusses the core reasons behind the trend, largely the over-burdening of the familiar Graphical User Interface, particularly on mobile phones. It also describes the results of statistical studies that validate this trend.

Picking vendors that match your goals
Vendors can be categorized into categories that help you understand which options match your goals. This section describes those categories and the capabilities that you should consider.

Market segments
Companies tend to specialize in areas such as customer-facing versus employee-facing solutions or specific vertical markets. This section provides an overview of those market segments.

The general personal assistants 
The general personal assistants (GPAs) are intended to be a portal to everything, a new way to access everything in the long run. These include Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft’s Cortana, Samsung’s Bixby, and Baidu’s Duer. Most allow customers to reach companies through the GPA. This section describes 27 GPAs and which allow company connections and provide tools to make the connection.

The technology: Where we are and where we are heading
The technology can sound intimidating, with references to deep neural networks used in natural language processing and speech recognition. This section discusses the differences in technology at an intuitive level, with some content for those that want to go a bit deeper. The discussion includes insights on why the technology seems to have suddenly broken through barriers of utility.

Examples of deployed digital assistants
Specific examples of deployed digital assistants and chatbots provide insight into what has worked for companies. The many examples are broken down into categories such as customer service lines, chatbots, bots on messaging services, and more.

Vendors
This is by far the largest section and the core of the Guide. The discussion is broken down into two parts: (1) vendors providing a full digital assistant solution in at least one channel (covering 189 companies) and (2) vendors that provide a partial service that can be used to build an assistant (another 154 companies). The two sections are proceeded by a table of vendors with their focus to allow quick scanning for those most relevant to your goals. Each vendor description contains a brief description of the vendor’s focus in their own words, followed by an extensive author’s discussion of the features and characteristics of the company’s offering and tools.