NatWest Bank in the UK has enhanced its text-based customer service chatbot, Cora – which has been operational since early 2017 — with a digital created human face, developed by New Zealand company Soul Machines, that speaks Cora’s text, complete with facial expressions.
It is the latest in a string of adoptions for the Auckland company’s technology. In November 2017 Soul Machines, a spinout from the University of Auckland Bioengineering Institute, announced that it was developing digital human interface for Autodesk’s customer assistance chatbot, the Autodesk Virtual Agent, AVA.
That followed Soul Machines’ announcement in March 2017 that it had developed a similar avatar for the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme.
NatWest says it is in advanced testing of the ‘digital human’ and that it could in future be used as an additional way for customers to get answers to basic banking queries.
Its Cora text chatbot that underpins the avatar is claimed to be able to answer 200 basic banking queries and to be engaging in 100,000 conversations a month.
Soul Machines claims to use “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.”
The company claims that, “like humans, it 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.”
NatWest says it will only deploy the technology if it successfully completes a pilot but testing to date has suggested customers that have avoided digital services in the past may be more inclined to interact with digital humans.
Kevin Hanley, director of innovation at NatWest said the bank was also looking at how it could use digital humans help train our staff on certain subjects.
You can see the Soul Machine enhanced version of Cora in action in this video: