The deal marks a big score for Nuance’s Nina artificial intelligence voice recognition system.
There are other voice recognition systems out there: Fiserv’s Voice Response for DNA, ebankIT, Interactions, and Finantix, for example. But few voice recognition programs accept natural language, able to understand the inconsistencies in spoken language, like post hoc self-corrections and reflective hesitancy. Nuance believes these imperfections are essential to seamlessly integrate voice banking into users’ life. According to Nuance, the way to do this is by enhancing its “multi-channel intelligent assistant” — Nina — through real-use tests in disparate markets worldwide. In other words, Nuance is using AI to make voice banking better.
“[Nina] will allow more transactions,” a Nuance spokesman said. “for instance, ‘I’d like to pay fifty dollars on my bill next Tuesday,’ are all valid entries with Nina.”
Santander is the third bank to go live with Nina since its launch 18 months ago. USAA was first, following by Tangerine, formerly ING Direct. U.S. Bank has also trialed Nina.
The Nuance spokesman said Nuance is about much more than just banking or transactions. Nina’s development is a symptom of a larger, futuristic evolution in how we interact with technology:
We’re not just about voice banking. Speech interface is more about integrating the field of AI into financial or business environments. That’s critical, because AI is taught in the crucible of real use. You need real users to develop the technology that allows you to take this to market. We understand more what banking users are asking for, and how to train the voices to be as efficient and natural as possible. There are lots of players out there trying to understand how to make this work. That’s quite very valuable from the design perspective. We’re about deriving much more information about what the user’s trying to do, and reducing the number of steps to help them reach that goal.
Nina is already used for recognition of multiple languages.
“We have Nina in languages as diverse as Japanese and Turkish,” the spokesman said. “There’s also Swedish, Dutch, German; it’s very pan-global.”
Nuance, based in Boston, is a publicly traded company [NUAN]. As of today, the company has a market capitalization of about $5.8 billion.
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