Developed by the IST-funded HOPS project, the platform uses a variety of technologies to enable people to talk to a computer over the phone as if they are talking with a human call centre worker.
While saving the councils time and money, callers will find they have access to interactive information and services around the clock, said Joan Batlle, the project coordinator at
‘The problem has been that most of the systems used to automate call centres rely on asking the caller to pick from a list of options and then offering a response from a pre-programmed list that may or may not give the user the information they require,’ said Batlle.
The HOPS project has managed to make human-machine dialogue more natural and fluid by merging voice technologies such as Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Text to Speech (TTS) with natural language processing technologies to understand, interpret and respond to callers. These components are then tied into a data management system incorporating Semantic Web technology for finding and extracting the information sought by users.
‘The platform itself is designed to be highly flexible so it can be used in any public administration call centre to provide any service or information. The only thing that really has to be changed depending on where it is deployed is the vocabulary. That could mean different languages or a different lexicon depending on whether it is used to deal with car registrations or cultural events,’ Batlle said.
Preliminary trials carried out in
The project is due to begin testing a second prototype in the autumn ahead of tests with a third and final version of the platform that will also serve to gauge callers’ reactions.
Batlle said that all three town halls involved in the project are planning to employ the finished version of the platform. In