New Google AI Brings Automation to Customer Service

  • Adds two AI software products, rents out Oregon data center
  • Company invests in cloud to compete with Amazon, Microsoft

Google is trying to use its artificial intelligence know-how to tempt businesses onto its cloud and away from dominant services run by Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The latest lure: Use Google computers to automatically handle irate customer calls.

The Alphabet Inc. unit announced two new artificial intelligence software tools Wednesday for its Google Cloud Platform service and made another of its many data centers available to rent by outside companies.

The moves are part of a broader push by Google to use its lead in AI technology to improve existing services and products, develop new ones and ultimately build new businesses. It recently used cutting-edge AI developed by its DeepMind subsidiary to improve the efficiency of its data centers.

The products introduced Wednesday also increase competition with Microsoft, which is making AI tools available via its Azure cloud, and set Google apart from Amazon Web Services, which has focused on letting customers program their own AI tools.

Google’s two new AI tools let companies analyze language and convert speech into text. U.K.-based grocery delivery service Ocado Group Plc has used them to help it rank and respond to customer queries, the internet company said.

Businesses can use the technologies to automatically "prioritize the most irate customers first" by spotting language from e-mails and phone calls associated with feelings like anger, frustration and irritation, said Rob Craft, a product manager for Google Cloud Platform.

The products will cost a few cents per use, he said. The company expects people to mix-and-match its various AI offerings. For example, a business could transcribe a phone call using the speech service, interpret the tone of it, and figure out which product the call relates to, no human required.

The current emphasis of Google’s AI services is to help automate aspects of conversations, said Craft. In the future, he thinks interesting work could be done in fraud prevention and cybersecurity for other companies.

The company also announced that customers can now rent storage, computing power and other cloud services from its data center in Oregon, giving people on the West Coast of the U.S. faster access. That’s part of a plan by cloud chief and board-member Diane Greene to add 12 new data centers over the next 12 to 18 months.

(Updates with correct name of Google product manager in 6th and 8th paragraphs.)
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