Kasisto: On COVID-19 and being at the forefront of conversational AI


The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic saw many unusual patterns of behavior. People stayed in their homes, places of work closed, panic buying was the norm. Many unprecedented events occurred across the world, including in the financial sector.

This unusual activity also affected the world of technology. Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, designed to learn from patterns, now had to handle new inputs.

Kasisto, an SRI International spin-off company, offers a conversational AI digital assistant-enabled platform for the financial services industry. The platform, named KAI, demonstrated how, even under the extreme conditions of a COVID-19 pandemic, with the right approach, AI can stand up to the challenge.

A brief primer on conversational AI and the KAI platform

KAI is a digital experience platform used to create branded virtual assistants and chatbots to deliver personalized, intelligent experiences across multiple channels. The smart conversational engine behind the platform leverages the artificial intelligence research and development carried out over decades by SRI International.

Siri, an SRI International invention, is based on a mix of speech recognition and Natural Language Processing (NLP) — both used in the KAI platform. SRI’s work on the conversational AI assistant, Siri, was an instrumental influence in the development of KAI. But KAI unlike Siri is designed for the enterprise market with all security, data protection, reporting and analytics that are required by enterprise customers.

KAI brings a number of important pieces together in a technology stack. This technology ecosystem gives customers fast information access and allows them to perform simple and complex tasks using voice or text on their smart devices.

The technology stack that makes up KAI brings together:

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) — to understand exactly what customers are asking
  • AI Reasoning — to process the dynamics of conversation
  • An AI Interpreter — to understand the complexities of language
  • Conversational Intent — to help with conversation flow

The combination of these pieces in the KAI platform placed Kasisto in a unique position when COVID-19 struck.

COVID skills in conversational AI

Kasisto has clients in the financial sector in Asia-Pac, this includes DBS in Singapore and Standard Chartered in Hong Kong. Early signs of the pandemic began in Asia-Pac. At the time, Kasisto began to notice spikes in unknown data entering the KAI platform in the form of ‘unknown requests’.

Unknown requests are categorized as customers asking a KAI virtual assistant a question about something the system had not been trained on. When Kasisto analyzed the unknown data, they realized that customers were asking questions about coronavirus.

As the pandemic continued, the sorts of questions being asked of KAI included how to defer payments, cleaning procedures, and the available financial assistance. Kasisto quickly responded to the situation by creating a COVID-19 skill for KAI.

The new COVID skill was created using the data coming into KAI built up from questions that were COVID-related. The new skill was able to answer questions on branch safety during the pandemic and offer guidance to customers on payment deferral options.

The unprecedented nature of a complete shutdown of the economy meant that even organizations with the most robust of disaster recovery plans struggled to meet these extreme circumstances.

Customers were also going through their own disaster recovery process, attempting to find out as much information about their own financial situation. Logging into bank accounts was often met by disclaimers such as “We’re experiencing higher than normal call volumes.” “Please try to utilize the website or other ways to get your questions answered.”

Kasisto had to move fast to help alleviate the situation for financial institutions and their customers. The skill added to KAI to handle COVID-related calls helped to turn the consumer digital revolution into a positive for banks.

Conversational AI is what KAI does best. Kasisto’s customers typically see a 50% boost in productivity, 4 times increase in digital platform volume, and 90% containment rates.

SRI is a world-leader in AI research having spent decades on the real-world application of smart technology. Kasisto is an SRI International spin-off company. KAI is currently the only conversational AI platform to capitalize on the many years of innovation and research into AI, from SRI International.

For more information on conversation AI check out Kasisto’s webinars:

Read more from SRI