NLP: Redefining human interaction
In recent times, we have heard a lot of buzz about NLP. But what is it? Why is it needed? Does it affect your everyday life? Where is it used in everyday life?
Without realizing, NLP has been at work for quite some time, and it is being improved continuously through the use of AI and customer interactions. It is playing a vital role in interactions in everyday life and with the improvements in AI and machine learning will continue to do so. But, before we delve further into that, let’s understand what is NLP?
What is NLP?
According to Wikipedia, Natural language processing (NLP) is a subfield of linguistics, computer science, information engineering, and artificial intelligence concerned with the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages, in particular how to program computers to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data.
In layman terms, it is used by program softwares to understand human language. On most occasions, we have been using it on our devices without even noticing we are using it.
Why is NLP used?
NLP is used to read, decipher and understand the human language so valuable insights can be attained and recommendations can be made which will help users. This helps websites and applications become more interactive, engaging and useful.
How does NLP work?
Algorithms are programmed to identify texts or words in a given sentence. Once those keywords are identified, the algorithms try to decipher and understand the meaning of the sentence. As per the meaning identified by the computer, it is able to provide results or recommendations that help users to achieve their goals.
What makes NLP so difficult?
When humans speak to each other, we use different elements apart from words to convey the message. Tonality, gestures, expressions, body language, volume, and other elements are an important aspect of the message we are conveying.
However, softwares and machines do not understand such complexities and it will be quite some time before this can be accurately interpreted along with words to understand the true meaning of a message.
Proceeding onwards, we’ll talk about the places we usually interact with NLP in our everyday life.
Everyday Applications of NLP
NLP used for predictive texts
You must have been using Autocorrect for quite some time now. This is NLP at work. At a very basic level, it guesses the words you might type to complete the sentence and gives you options, saving you time and the entire effort of thinking what to type in the sentence. It gathers this data from previously written messages which are stored in its server.
It also gathers data from the sentences you write and predicts what you might type in the mail you are about to send.
Text analytics use of NLP
Text analytics is used by major brands to understand how their campaigns are performing, what people are saying about their brand on different marketing channels and how their brands are being perceived.
These tools are known as listening tools and analyze comments of individuals on different platforms. This analysis is known as sentiment analysis and pays close attention to keywords being used along with the brand name mentions, making marketers understand the significance of the comment.
Do you use Grammarly for writing your emails? If yes, then you are using a software that uses NLP to give you recommendations on the correct usage of grammar and spellings.
Aside from Grammarly, even Microsoft Word and Google Docs help you with the same.
Ever felt Google can read your mind? Or it already knows what you’re going to type before you even key in the words?
Search engines use NLP to understand what users are looking to find or what answers they are looking for. Google has even started Image Search with which it can identify what you’re looking for without even keying in the text, just a symbol or an image is sufficient for it to understand what information you might be looking for.
In recent times, most people have come across Alexa, Google Home Duo or Amazon Echo. They work similarly to how bots work, however, they are capable of numerous other functions such as calling a family member or anything else you ask for it to do, for example, schedule a meeting.
Data visualizations are being provided by BI vendors basing it on NLP capabilities. This requires meaningful interpretation of data and showcasing it to the target audience leading them to explore data using natural language statements or questions.
Using this, you can directly ask questions of data and the software will respond with a filter, section or a visualization.
A good example is Climo for Bosch, which is a real-time climate monitoring dashboard. It shows real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) as a Heatmap for any location in the world.
Don’t you love it how Gmail organizes your mail into inbox, social, promotions and other sections? Isn’t the clutter-free inbox much better to work with?
Another example is the Fullerton app, which recognizes important industry updates in the stock market and gives relevant recommendations to the user as per his requirements.
This again is the work of NLP. NLP recognizes which category it should go to on the basis of the contents the mail has. This makes your life easier as now there a limited number of emails that need to be reviewed.
These are chatbots integrated into your Facebook Messenger. Using these smart bots you can still avail services provided by that company such as book cabs by Uber or Lyft.
Messenger bots are handy for various other services. The Mastercard messenger bot keeps track of your spending habits, gives you recommendations on where and when you can spend your money, also where you can’t.
Translation softwares have been helped immensely by the use of natural language processing. On average, Google Translate is used by over 500 million people every day. This made language barriers diminish to a huge extent. It is even handy when individuals travel to other countries as tourists can speak to locals, making communication easier.
Reservations and Bookings
This is a new development that is slowly turning heads. Reservations are being made directly without any human interaction involved except for the user using them.
In these cases, a human-computer interface is at play. A natural language is converted into a computer language and actions are executed as per the command of the user.
Applications such as 6AWLA, allow you to make reservations even for large groups without any human interaction from the restaurant. This ensures a hassle-free booking experience even for the restaurants as well as the consumers.
Communication with the specially-abled
Probably, not the first thing which came to your mind when we talk about NLP, but applications have been developed which function on basis of NLP allowing disabled people to communicate.
Two amazing examples are the Livox app and the SignAll app. Livox allows people to communicate by just blinking on an item if even touching the screen is a problem. On the other hand, SignAll converts sign language to English facilitating better communication.
NLP is changing the way the world communicates and will keep on changing with further developments. We can expect a future where communication is completely guided by NLP, making human interactions effortless.