NatWest in AI driven “digital human” test
NatWest is in the advanced testing stage of an artificial intelligence (AI) powered “digital human”, designed to help with banking queries.
The bank, has since the start of 2017, deployed a text-based chatbot called “Cora” which customers can use on the bank’s online help pages. It can answer 200 basic banking queries and now has 100,000 conversations a month.
But the bank says drawing upon advances in neuroscience, psychology, computing power and AI, a new Cora prototype has been built to include a “highly life-like digital human” that customers can have a two-way verbal conversation with on a computer screen, tablet or mobile phone.
NatWest says in the future it could be used as an additional way for customers to get answers to basic banking queries.
Cora can answer basic verbal questions like “How do I login to online banking?”, “How do I apply for a mortgage?” and “What do I do if I lose my card?”.
The technology relies on using audio and visual sensors, “which are standard in modern computers and mobile phones”.
Kevin Hanley, director of innovation at NatWest, says the technology has “real potential for the future and we’re also looking at how we can use it to help train our staff on certain subject matters”.
NatWest has been building Cora using technology provided by New Zealand-based firm Soul Machines, whose co-founder and CEO, Mark Sagar, won awards for his facial technology used in the movies King Kong and Avatar.
Soul Machines uses biologically inspired models of the human brain and neural networks to create a virtual nervous system for their digital humans that can detect human emotion and react verbally as well as physically, through facial expressions.
Like humans, Cora is trained when dealing with new subject matter and when she makes mistakes she learns, “so that over time the interactions become more and more accurate”.
Whilst NatWest says it will only deploy the technology if it successfully completes a pilot, it reckons it could be used to help free up time for human advisors to answer more complex customer questions and could also be used to answer queries which fall outside normal working hours and days.
According to the bank, testing to date has suggested customers that have avoided digital services in the past may be more inclined to interact with digital humans like Cora and it could help blind and partially sighted customers who are unable to engage with visual content.