Chatbots, voice and more AI for Carsales

10 Apr 2018

Chatbots and voice assistants are in the pipeline at leading Australian auto site CarSales, but its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered image recognition software, Cyclops, remains the priority.

CarSales’ AI and machine learning technical developer Agustinus Nalwan (LinkedIn profiletold ITNews that, while the company is developing chatbots and voice assistants, none have any practical uses yet.

Agustinus Nalwan

Agustinus Nalwan

“It’s a good time to start thinking about them and seeing what we can do, but it’s hard to build something serious at the moment,” Nalwan said.

He said his team are currently working on a chatbot that uses the Zendesk platform and lets users ask a question to receive an email suggesting three “help” topics on the CarSales website. At the moment, it’s still rudimentary as the team grapple with the “chit-chatty” nature of car buying and selling conversations.

“There are so many different ways people could ask questions about what kind of car they want to buy: the price, fuel efficiency, safety…”

“Some people also just might not like the look of the car [they are recommended], but what does ‘look’ mean from that person’s perspective? You need to understand the person first, in order to know the meaning of the word.”

For chatbots and voice search to truly takeover from keystroke searches, Nalwan said the technology needs to advance to a point where it can handle complex conversations, which he said is at least three-to-five years off.

The main priority has been Cyclops, the image recognition software that, powered by AI, recognises the angles of cars and suggests what other photos buyers look at when searching for cars.

It’s primarily used by photographers the company employs to visit car dealers and photograph new cars. Afterwards, the photographers had to upload the photos to the CarSales library and classify the angle of each one, which Nalwan said costs the company around $250,000 a year.

“We’re heavily invested in image recognition because the business can already see the return on investment. It’s successful, it can solve many problems, it can do many cool things, and it can really separate us from our competitors.”

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Angela Hawksford

Angela is a writer and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. She has extensive knowledge of the Australian real estate industry, having started her career in real estate advertising at News Limited newspapers, where she worked across a number of different mastheads in Sydney. She s also worked in television, magazines and online, and regularly contributes feature articles to The Sydney Morning Herald, MiNDFOOD and The Newcastle Herald. Angela also works as a content writer, creating written content for a number of SMEs across an array of industries, including real estate, education, technology and digital media.