The Evolution of Lara: She’s Talking.


Artificial intelligence. There’s a certain magic attached to these words.

Among the countless films made on artificial intelligence, my favourite is the 2013 film Her. A damaged Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with a sublime Scarlett Johansson…’s voice. Yes, voice. She’s an artificial intelligence-powered computer operating system — and she is spectacular.

Why I’m referencing films in my posts (once more) is just to emphasize how much in love we are with the possibility of an AI-driven future. Films like Hercan’t help but evoke some interesting questions that we find ourselves answering now:

Is it finally happening? Has the artificial intelligence take-over — romanticised and dramatised in countless art forms — finally happened?

To some extent, I’d say yes.

The bot revolution is coming.

The reign of the all-powerful app might be coming to an end. People are saturated with a million different app UIs jostling for space on their phones — and all signs point to a clean, universally-recognised messaging service (like a chat bot) as the way of the future.

Right now, bots are exploding as the future face of business. Facebook Messenger has already integrated bots last month. Google just announced Allo, a smart messaging app powered by its brand-new ‘Assistant’ (a conversational AI helper), which ‘learns over time” to make conversations easier and more productive. So yes, I’ll say it again — the bot revolution is coming.

To fully understand the true potential of an AI bot-driven future, we need to think beyond the concept of virtual assistants capable of fulfilling your needs through a conversational interface. That is what bots do, yes — but it’s more than that.

Lara is more than that.

Lara is the WowTables virtual concierge — and she is about to change the way we interact with the dining space. You can read more about how she came into being over here.

Over the past few weeks, it’s been hard to control the sheer excitement of building Lara. I cannot wait to introduce her to everyone.

So how far along is Lara?

Well, she’s alive. And she’s talking.

We’re in the middle of building Lara’s conversational logic by pulling in pools of ambient user data from our vast stores of information and creating end-to-end situational solutions for our users.

Let’s break it down a bit. Here’s what Lara does:
a) She maps your user behaviour till now (previous bookings, stored preferences of cuisine, location etc) and suggests a dining experience based on her prior knowledge of you.
b) If you agree with her suggestion, Lara will take you directly to a page where you can book your table.
c) If you don’t agree with her suggestion, she’ll ask you to talk to her a little more about what you’re looking for. She absorbs and stores the vital bits of information in this conversation as another piece of the user puzzle she’s putting together. And boom. You’ve just helped build Lara.

One quick and ridiculously simple chat later, your plans for the night are sorted. Bon appétit.

Building a complex and beautiful creature like Lara will take a bit of time but here’s a peek at what users will be able to experience very soon:

In the coming weeks, Lara will go live on Facebook Messenger. We’re now looking to integrate with Google Allo — the search giant has announced that it’s working on a “comprehensive way” for third parties to tap into the AI-powered, conversation-oriented helper. They’ve tied up with Opentable in the US for restaurant reservations — I figured, why not us here? And why stop there — with Google, voice-activated conversations with Lara are just a step away.

PS: I’m looking for a connect at Google to get this started — so if any of you know of someone who can help me, please drop me a message in the comments below or email me at [email protected].

I don’t think I could adequately convey just how immensely exciting this whole process is. It’s like growing life — organic, pulsating, breathing life — on previously barren land. It’s such a rush. It’s artificial intelligence, yes — but it’s building towards a future that’s real, bright and bursting with possibilities.

If you’re as excited about Lara as I am, click here to be in our exclusive pool of beta testers when we release.

Till the next big step.

Kunal Jain

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