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By 25 May 2017 | Categories: Misc

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The future of human-computer interaction will be up for debate in Cape Town this week, when some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners in the cutting-edge field of conversational interfaces will gather to examine the subjects of artificial intelligences, chatbots, machine learning and natural language processing at BotCon Africa 2017.

The opening keynotes for BotCon Africa 2017 have now been confirmed as Martin Raison, a research engineer at Facebook AI Research in Paris, and Justin Watson, co-founder of the open-source Botpress framework.

Raison, who was previously an engineer for the natural language processing platform Wit.ai before it was acquired by Facebook, will open the conference with a keynote on the best practice for chatbot interfaces, under the subject of “Teaching machines to interact with people”.

"Building chatbots that feel as natural and smart as humans will require great scientific advances,” Raison says, “This talk will give a glimpse of how Facebook AI Research and the scientific community are bringing us closer to this dream every day."

Watson, meanwhile, will address the issue of “What makes a great bot?”. Drawing on his experiences through Botpress, which allows developers to quickly create a bot instance and add features via plugins, Watson will highlight some of the lessons learned from thousands of users about how to create a great chatbot.

“Conversational interfaces and chatbots promise to revolutionise the way customer-facing services are designed across Africa, thanks to low-cost implementation and the ability to implement multilingual support across multiple platforms” says Belinda Lewis, Product Director at chatbot platform Feersum Engine and curator of the BotCon Africa 2017 conference, “Through events like BotCon Africa 2017 we can accelerate local development and knowledge, helping to make African firms leaders in the field of AI interaction.”

BotCon Africa 2017 takes place at Workshop 17 on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, on 25 May. The focus of the conference will be to investigate ways in which AIs and bots can be applied to public and commercial services across Africa. From leading social media platforms to finance houses, attendees will gain valuable insights into the best practice for bot design and implementation through a mix of keynote presentations, technical talks and workshop sessions, plus the opportunity to network with peers.

Other highlights of the event include a second speaker from Facebook, Head of Messenger Platform Partnerships for the Facebook Messenger, Angelique Kamara. Kamara will discuss how the social media giant is embracing chatbots in her talk, “Bots that connect: The future of the Messenger Platform”. Local innovators who will be presenting talks and workshops include include Riana Smit, from RetroRabbit, DataProphet’s Frans Cronje, Ryan Falkenberg from Clevva and Toufeeq Ockards from the Square Kilometre Array.

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