Google buys AI chatbot startup Onward

Onward's chatbot offers personalised responses to customer enquiries as well as product recommendations

Google has acquired chatbot startup Onward in what's likely an attempt to improve its own customer service tools or expand the number of products available as part of its business suite of applications.

The technology uses natural language processing to analyse the content of customer messages to support teams, alongside other information such as where they are located, whether they're logged in to any services, and how they have used the service in the past. This data then allows the chatbot to tailor its replies, offering a much better customer experience.

The company has also created its own visual bot builder, which allows customers to build their own responses based on the answers customers give to questions.

The tool integrates with a whole host of other services, such as Zendesk, Help Scout, Salesforce, Hubspot, Shopify, Spree, and Solidus to manage customer conversations, integrate leads with a CRM and track orders, offering a complete platform for managing customer experience.

Onward's Agent Q virtual assistant can be used as an extension of this, providing product recommendations, bringing together review and pricing information from across the web to offer super-accurate, real-time data for customers.

It follows Google's decision earlier in the year to funnel cash into AI startups hoping to exploit the Google Assistant platform.

"We started Onward with the mission of allowing computers to participate in natural, human conversations," Onward wrote in the announcement on its website. "With Google, we’ll be able to expand the reach of the technologies that power Onward. These core technologies are what got us excited in the first place, and we are excited to bring them to Google."

Onward's co-founders Rémi Cossart and Pramod Thammaiah will both join Google, as will some of its team, although it's not clear which departments they will join.

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