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LivePerson Collaborates with UCSC to Build the Future of Natural Language Processing

LivePerson, a global leader in Conversational AI, has launched the LivePerson Fellows program at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). The program sponsors Ph.D. students at UCSC’s Natural Language and Dialogue Systems Lab to ensure that the Conversational AI experiences of the future will provide more natural, empathetic, and human-feeling experiences for all.

The LivePerson Fellows program was born out of deep collaboration between LivePerson and UCSC AI experts to transform experiences we have with AIs we communicate with via voice or text, and build richer digital experiences with Conversational AI for generations to come. Conversations are perhaps the most natural form of communication, yet they are  incredibly complex and nuanced. There are many technical challenges involved in teaching artificial intelligence how to converse in a way that feels personalized, meaningful and human. The LivePerson Fellows Program aims to empower the next generation of scientists, and put them on paths towards making new breakthroughs in natural language processing, natural language understanding, and Conversational AI.

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Dr. Beth Ann Hockey, Senior Principal Data Scientist at LivePerson, and Dr. Marilyn Walker, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Baskin School of Engineering and Director of UCSC’s Natural Language and Dialogue Systems Lab, earned their doctorates at the University of Pennsylvania together. Hockey, who created the first-ever voice assistant for astronauts working in space, was recently asked to join the Industry Advisory Board at Walker’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) program, drawing on her experience at LivePerson and other tech companies to support its curriculum and advisement.

“Joining UCSC’s Industry Advisory Board was an ideal opportunity to help influence the future of NLP by sharing learnings from my work across industry, academia and government, plus feedback on the curriculum to make sure it matches the skills needed in this rapidly evolving field,” said Hockey. “But we as a company wanted to do more. We want the next generation of NLP talent to be diverse, ethical, and well-rounded. That’s where the LivePerson Fellows program comes in. We’re teaching students the fundamentals of Conversational AI to build richer digital experiences for generations to come.”

“We’re proud of our collaboration with UCSC’s incredible NLP program and are excited to support these talented data scientists building the future of Conversational AI. With the advances they make toward helping interactions with AI feel more human, we can create more positive, meaningful digital experiences for generations to come,” said Rob LoCascio, founder and CEO of LivePerson.

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Davan Harrison and Wen Cui, both Ph.D. candidates in Natural Language Processing, are the first UCSC students to be named LivePerson Fellows. Their work is directed at solving some of the most important problems in the field and improving experiences with AI that communicates via voice or text.

Under Walker’s leadership, Harrison and Cui are  working on open-domain projects, which are not tied to one specific industry or subject area. Harrison’s area of study, dialog act classification, helps AI better identify what a user is trying to accomplish when they say or type something. Cui’s area of study, entity-linking, links sets of information to specific words to give AI more knowledge and support more natural and informed conversations.

“Studying open-domain dialogue presents unique challenges and opportunities for our NLP students to make models that talk like humans. It’s an area that’s becoming increasingly relevant in today’s industry,” said Walker. “LivePerson’s conversational systems carry out almost one billion conversational interactions a month. Our collaboration with LivePerson will help us better understand the research needed to make these systems more natural and useful. My students’ work within these areas will shape how people interact with the products that can make the world more accessible and easier to navigate.”

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