Hursley’s IoT Lab: now voice-enabled with Watson Assistant

The IoT lab at IBM Hursley has just become voice-enabled – thanks to IBM Watson Assistant Solutions and six coding competition winners from Italy. The six 19-year-old Italian students were invited to Hursley after winning the Informatics Olympiad, an IBM-sponsored competition open to over 20,000 people. Their challenge: to turn the IoT lab into an interactive space in just nine days.

The interactive lab: tour guide, concierge and smart room

Andy Barnes, Executive IT Architect and IoT Consumer Business Architect at IBM, was one of the students’ mentors. He tasked the group with connecting Watson Speech to Text with Watson Assistant Solutions and the Watson IoT Platform. The aim was to create an interactive lab that functioned as its own tour guide: responding to questions, providing information and even altering its physical environment on demand.

To aid them in their quest, the students were introduced to IBM Cloud, the IBM product catalogue (including Watson APIs), and JavaScript. They also learned how to implement Watson Assistant Solutions and use the Watson IoT Platform to voice-enable control of the room’s functions and features.

In just nine days, the team adapted the IoT Lab so that it could execute a wide variety of voice commands, including:

  •        Change the colour and brightness of the lights
  •        Rotate the central demonstration desk
  •        Display demos on-screen throughout the room
  •        Take photographs
  •        Answer questions about the Hursley location
  •        Look up information on Wikipedia

The IoT Lab can even interpret the meaning of explicit spoken instructions into specific action. A request to “turn the lights to romantic”, for instance, is met by dimming the lights to soft pinks and oranges. Romantic indeed, Watson.

The team implemented Watson Assistant Solutions to enable the lab to converse with its occupants. Specifically, Watson Assistant for Industry took care of the natural language understanding, performed the associated action (like looking up the weather, for example) and returned a response in text format. Then, Watson Text to Speech generated a spoken iteration of the returned text. Voilà! A talking Lab.

Now, the IoT Lab can respond to spoken queries, locate its interrogators within the Hursley building, and regale them with a little Hursley history:

Speaker:           Hello Watson! Where am I?

Watson:            You are in the IoT Lab. The IoT Lab was created in 2014.

Speaker:           Please, tell me more.

Watson:           The IoT Lab is part of the ecosystem adoption hub in Hursley, and home to some of IBM’s architects and technical specialists.

Take a look at the video below to watch our student guests put the newly enabled IoT lab through its paces:

What else can you do with Watson Assistant Solutions?

Hursley’s IoT lab is a great showcase for some of Watson Assistant Solutions’ diverse capabilities. With Watson Assistant Solutions and the Watson IoT Platform, our team of coding champs was able to modularise development to voice-enable the lab in record time. By configuring existing skills (like the ability to look up information in Wikipedia, for example), the team became productive in just half a day – ensuring speedy development and fast results.

A key component was Watson Assistant itself. This family of offerings is designed to help people build AI solutions – from simple chatbots, to personalized services, and even complex enterprise-focused solutions.

Watson Assistant is built on a leading conversational platform, which means it’s ideal for both developer and non-technical users. It’s designed so that a business can customize the assistant to their brand and build proactive, loyalty-forming experiences for customers, all while keeping any data private between the business and its customers. In case that wasn’t enough, Watson Assistant learns with each interaction to provide ever-improving service.

There’s no limit to how you can use Watson Assistant Solutions. But as a starting point, let’s look quickly at how three core industries – Customer Care, Automotive and Hospitality – are putting them to use.

Customer care providers are using Watson Assistant Solutions to upskill agents, streamline customer engagement and transform their customer service department. IBM Watson Assistant for Automotive helps OEMs create a better in-vehicle –and differentiated — customer experience. And IBM Watson Assistant for Hospitality lets hoteliers give their guests a uniquely personalized experience the moment a guest walks in the door.

Discover more about IBM Watson Assistant Solutions on our website, and see how our clients are transforming their industries.

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Author: Andy Barnes