Chatbot Vacations – Pranas Kiziela, Eddy Travels – Voice Tech Podcast ep.034

Pranas Kiziela Eddy Travels

Episode description

Pranas Kiziela is the CTO of Eddy Travels, a personal travel advisor that connects travellers with travel products and services. Eddy Travels is available in popular chat apps like Messenger, Telegram, Viber and Slack, and supports both text and voice based interaction.

We discuss the benefits of booking travel though a conversational interface, and the big voice-AI opportunities in the travel space right now. We tackle some of the major design considerations faced during the product build, including the limitations of the big chatbot platforms, the different challenges of working with voice and text, and how to incorporate a bot into a text conversation between two humans.

We also spend some time discussing the technical aspects, including the story of why Eddy Travels started with DialogFlow but later migrated to RASA NLU. We cover the many advantages of using an open-source framework, specifically much greater control over training the NLU models, unit testing and source control, and model management capabilities. It’s a wide ranging conversation that has something for everyone, and will make you want to book your next holiday!

Highlights from the show:

Business
  • The benefits of booking a holiday with a chatbot? Easier to collaborate with others on travel plan
  • What are the big opportunities in travel? Voice, as most travel sites are not yet voice enabled.
  • What’s the ideal chat app user audience? Millennials, as they are heavy chat users
  • How to reach this audience? Paid ads on Facebook, invite into Facebook Messenger bot. No install, no typing, just one click entry.
Design
  • How to include a bot in a conversation between people without it dominating? Constrain bot convo to a thread
  • User experience limitations of chatbot platforms for booking travel? Users unaware of voice functionality, also the response formats to the user can be restrictive
  • Why is conversational UI suited to travel booking? The existing offline process is conversation based
  • How important is multimodal to the booking process? Very important for some use cases like room booking and product comparison, but buying travel insurance or repeat bookings can be voice-only.
  • What advantages do voice interfaces have over booking on a website? The openness of voice responses allows the user to be more specific in their requests, and discover products that are a better match.
  • How are the challenges different with voice and text? Users provide much more information through voice than text
Tech
  • How to implement voice understanding on Facebook Messenger & Telegram instant messenger chat apps? Process the audio messages
  • What are the limitations of the major platforms? Can’t train your own NLU in Amazon Alexa or DialogFlow. No access to ML hyper-parameter tuning. No source control made collaboration hard. Slot filling paradigm is limiting. Follow up questions are tricky to add. No way to track performance of the model.
  • Why is starting with DialogFlow a good idea? Quick and easy to build a prototype.
  • Why did Eddy Travels switch from DialogFlow to RASA NLU framework? Feature-rich as its built for conversations, highly customisable, source control and unit testing, ability to evaluate models, and you can compare and manage training models using external tool.
  • What are the metrics used to evaluate NLU models? Unit testing with regression test suite using example phrases is relied upon the most.
  • The benefits of using an open-source framework? Privacy, extensibility, data ownership and protection from competitors
  • What’s the most valuable assets you’ve developed at Eddy Travels? The database of user utterances, linked to the correct intents to satisfy their requirements.

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