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“Hey do you want to go paramotoring?” This may not be the typical way an IT conversation starts, but it just might be the way you begin an interaction with Richard Socher. Especially if you’re near a beautiful vista or in any gorgeous outdoor setting. But paramotoring is only Richard’s hobby, his job is Chief Scientist for Salesforce. As the Chief Scientist, Richard wears a couple of different hats. He and his team focus on publishing new research data, doing applied research, incubating, and working on the capabilities of Salesforce’s platform. The type of work Richard and his team do extends across many fields, but lately, they have been narrowing in on A.I. and all things Salesforce Einstein Voice Assistant. On this episode of IT Visionaries, Richard talks about his origins, including the work he did as the founder, CEO and CTO of MetaMind, the current and future state of affairs of A.I. and voice, and yes, his love of paramotoring.
Best Advice: “Identify the most important use cases for your company.”
- How A.I. can have a positive impact
- What is the future of voice technology?
- What out-of-the-box features are available
The beginning of Richard’s life in tech began in high school. He loved math and language, and he found a way to bring those two together through computers and programming. He focused his studies on computers throughout his school life, and eventually found statistical machine learning, which he believed was the future.
Throughout the process of getting a Ph.D., Richard was approached by numerous tech companies to do consulting work on their machine learning projects. And while the problems were slightly different, the underlying technology being used to address it was usually similar. This realization led Richard to start his own company, MetaMind, which was a single platform enterprise companies could use that made A.I. accessible. Eventually, MetaMind was acquired by Salesforce and Richard joined the company.
“You really need three different ingredients to make A.I. successful in a company or a product. And those three things are data, algorithms, and a deep understanding of the workflow and the industry that you want to tackle with A.I.”
The positive effects of A.I.
While many people worry about the negative effects of A.I., and how robots are taking humans’ jobs, Richard wants to focus on the positive impact A.I. can have. He believes that A.I. is a technology that can be used in just about every field and in any number of different ways, and it is only as powerful as the humans who program it. So, if you look at an industry like agriculture, you can use A.I. to do jobs such as fruit-picking or watering. And in doing so, you can eliminate waste and increase efficiency. Medicine is another field that can benefit from A.I. because A.I. can help remove some of the busywork that doctors get bogged down with that prevents them from actually helping patients.
Richard also highlights how A.I. can help with CRM sales within companies. Because every company wants to get closer with its customers, A.I. can be deployed in ways that make that possible. He highlights voice recognition technology as a main tool to help in this area.
“I think, for the most part, A.I. is omni-use technology. You can really use it for anything like a hammer. You can use a hammer as a weapon or to build a house. It’s like the internet. A.I. is only as good as the people, the organizations, the legislative and infrastructure and so on, that it’s embedded in. And as such, we do need to think a lot about what the positive applications are. And then if we work on those, I think the net positive will be there.”
“Everybody will have the ability to walk out of a meeting and just dictate all the meeting notes as they walk out. We do all the speech recognition for them. We’ll do a natural language understanding and then we update the CRM database. And that’s a very concrete feature that will just make people’s work-life much simpler.”
The role of Chief Scientist
At Salesforce, Richerd is helping to further research and innovate in the field of A.I. Whether they are publishing papers on the current or future state of A.I or doing research and development on internal tools for Einstein Voice, the team is always moving the ball forward.
There’s a balance between building for the customer specifically and building from an internal idea. Both are important, Richard says, and both lead to new tools that can be deployed widely throughout the customer base.
The future of voice technology
It’s clear to Richard and everyone on his team that voice is a clear next step in the future of work. As such, there is a heavy focus on the Einstein Voice Assistant technology. Services can be automated and still seem natural. Plus, there’s going to be ways to link voice and visual and augmented technology to combine to make new experiences. One of the biggest factors in creating trusted and reliable voice technology is building trust in the platform and the company that you are working with. That’s one of the criteria that Richard and his team at Salesforce are always intent on making a priority. So when a big bank or any company with a focus on keeping its data safe want to use voice recognition technology, they know that their data is secure on the platform. And once there is trust, Richard says that customers can make full use of the platform to make work better and easier for all employees.
Richard goes into what Salesforce has been working on recently, including a project called Conditional Transformer Language (CTRL) model, which is being used to “enhance the field of natural language understanding.” He also mentions that his team is working more on summarization tools for voice, which will be used to help create useful and accurate summaries when you need them.
“It’s clear to us and to many people that voice is a very natural way to interact with you and it’s a natural way that customers interact with your company.”
A.I. out-of-the-box features
With the Salesforce platforms, there are A.I. features that come out-of-the-box. Whether it’s recommendations, outreach or customer acquisition or support, there are automations and A.I. that Salesforce provides through their platforms that help companies operate better.