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JR East turning to AI to better serve riders

JR East aims to respond more quickly to questions on transfers, for example.

TOKYO -- Japanese railway operator JR East is looking at artificial intelligence as a way to improve customer service.

The company will take advantage of AI to help call center operators respond to inquiries faster. In a pilot study planned for this fall, a system will turn telephone conversations into text automatically, analyze them, and come up with answers for operators to use.

Multiple responses will be proposed on a computer screen, and the AI system will learn which ones the operators choose. It will also learn terminology specific to railways, as well as acronyms and new words, creating a database enabling it to provide better answers.

In addition, JR East envisions robots that will answer questions at stations.

The company has begun working on a system to summarize and sort the 500,000-plus opinions and complaints received each year via the internet and email. This is aimed at saving time for the officials who read such feedback. JR East plans to complete a prototype by fiscal 2018 and begin a pilot study.

As part of efforts to embrace AI, a special research and development team has been set up. JR East has also invested in a fund that supports startups with AI-related technologies. And it has taken part in the Super Sensing Forum, an organization dedicated to R&D in AI-related sensors.


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