The product is currently in prototype stage and not yet available to customers. Initially created as a Google Action, the underlying Teneo technology is fully agnostic, meaning it can plug-in to Alexa, Siri, Cortana and whichever smart assistant comes next. Michael Franklin: “We wanted to explore whether smart speakers could facilitate voice-driven betting. There are natural language challenges and limitations within the still nascent voice space, but together with Artificial Solutions we used powerful natural language technology to create a prototype to test whether it was possible to overcome these problems and deliver a great customer experience – allowing someone to shout out “Hey Google, stick twenty quid on Spurs to win two nil” and their bet be placed.”

As the primary smart speakers, the team focused on the Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Each has its own in-built Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) which directly impacts the capability of the Skill or Action; what phrases and terms does the device understand, and how does context impact this.  input large data sets to appreciate the ASR – not only what they understand, but importantly what they got wrong. This resulted in over 4000 betting phrases being said to both Alexa and Google to build a database. Michael explains: “We quickly found that of the two devices Amazon Alexa performed poorly in a betting context, with only 10% of phrases heard correctly. It also picked up 1084 team variations from the 30 team names and knicknames we used; for example, ‘Watford’ was heard as ‘Waterford’, ‘What read’ and ‘Wackford’, along with an additional 43 variants. “Google Home’s system performed noticeably better in comparison due to its history as a search engine and a broader ASR which could understand more sports and betting language. Despite this, it picked up only 43% of the phrases, hearing “Place a tenner” as “Play Santana” or “Place a bet on” as “Play Sabaton”. However importantly when it was wrong, it was consistently wrong, meaning we had confidence in what the input was supposed to be and could cover for mistakes within the natural language engine. “Neither Google Home not Amazon Alexa have been purposefully developed to understand betting

phrases or facilitate betting functionalities, so we had to build and create a broader language ontology within the NLP engine to cover for the mistakes and deliver a working prototype.”

NATURAL LANGUAGE COMPLICATIONS Following the work previously done developing the

Unibet Facebook Chatbot, the team’s Natural Language engine already understood the nuanced lexicon and variation in ways that users could request bets – from the team names, to scores or final outcomes. Phrases such as “Stick a tenner on the Gunners” or “what are the returns on BTTS” don’t easily translate to other areas of life and are specific to gambling. When combining this nuance and complexity with an ASR that didn’t correctly understand betting phrases, it raises the ambiguity of inputs even further.

“When speaking about sport and placing bets with a human, there is an assumption that those in the conversation have a certain level understanding to discuss particular topics,” explains Michael, “as well as background knowledge including the assumption of team popularity and likelihood of winning a game. “City to win”, or “Spurs to lose midweek” are obvious phrases which a human would understand. To overcome this potential minefield and make our device truly conversational, we had to build NLP that familiarised and learnt from the knowledge of past bets, kick off times and availability of odds, so it could provide contextually relevant information.”

Thought still a prototype, through innovative experimentation the team has developed a Google Action that can overcome the ASR and natural language barriers to show betting is possible through a voice interface. “Voice is certainly a hard interface to work with and there are still challenges to overcome – including important steps around identification and authentication of users – but through leveraging powerful NLP, we’ve been able to prove smart speakers could be the next interface for betting and positioned Kindred Group at the forefront for where the future may be heading.“

Will Mace

Neither Google Home not Amazon Alexa have been purposefully developed to understand betting phrases or facilitate betting functionalities


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