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Communications of the ACM


Designing a Framework for Conversational Interfaces

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Credit: Mona Redshinestudio

The conversational interface is an idea that is forever on the cusp of transforming the world. The potential is undeniable: Everyone has innate, untapped conversational expertise. We could do away with the nested menus required by visual interfaces; anything the user can name is immediately at hand. We could turn natural language into a declarative scripting language and operating systems into integrated development environments (IDEs).

Reality, however, has not lived up to this potential. Most people's use of the conversational agents in their phones and smart devices is limited to reminders and timers—if they use them at all. Semantic Machines is creating a framework for conversational interfaces that is meant to unlock some of this potential. It's currently powering a conversational interface in Outlook Mobile, with other products soon to follow.


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