Jordanian creates first Arabic voice assistant

Sari Hweitat, founder and CEO of Xina AI, poses in this undated photo. Hweitat’s company created the first Arabic interactive voice assistant. (Photo: Handout from Xina AI)

AMMAN — Voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri have become ubiquitous throughout the world. But up until recently, there were few options available for Arabic-speakers.اضافة اعلان

The lack of Arabic voice assistants for the Middle East market inspired Sari Hweitat to create Xina AI, the world's first Arabic Interactive Voice Assistant (IVA).

"Over the last few years, big technology companies such as Google and Amazon have built smart voice assistants, but there has been no attention on the Arabic language,” said the CEO and founder in an interview with Jordan News.

“As a result, I decided to design an Arabic voice assistant that understands Arabic and local dialects around the Arab world, starting with Jordan and its dialect. We have nearly 22 countries; each country has its own distinct dialect, and artificial intelligence finds it challenging to grasp these dialects.”

Hweitat explained that Xina is not a website but an artificial intelligence product that works kind of like Apple’s Siri, “the only difference is that we sell the solution to call center corporations rather than providing it directly to users.”

“For example, when you phone a telecom firm, you will be connected to a call center, where you will be greeted by an agent. He will make every effort to assist you, and what we do is assist call centers by absorbing large volumes of calls using artificial intelligence. It can take your call, figure out why you're calling, and assist you in resolving the issue."

Xina AI hopes to be at the forefront of the Arab region's digital transformation of call and customer service by incorporating artificial intelligence and natural language generation into day-to-day call center operations. The project combines natural language processing, Arabic speech recognition, and speech synthesis into one system.

"The traditional difficulties for any product based on artificial intelligence is data availability,” said Hweitat. “This means that the biggest obstacle facing artificial intelligence companies today is the availability of data because, without data, artificial intelligence will be of no use.”

He added that “financing the research and development” constitutes another challenge.

The founder believes that Xina AI will be a huge Arab success story in the future. “It is not possible to achieve anything in life if we listen to other people's negative statements,” he said.

"It is a project in its early stages, but corporations are interested in our AI solution," he continued. "Right now, we have 12 (employees), and by the end of the year, I want to have 18."

"We sell to call center organizations, and the call center and Xina AI are integrated," Hweitat added. “Everything is cloud-based, and we communicate with our customers in this manner. You have no choice but to call the call center, where Xina AI will accept your call in place of a customer support representative."

He explained that using Xina is less expensive for call centers than traditional customer service.

“We charge by the minute for our services,” he said. “This means that the more minutes you have, the more expensive it is, and the fewer minutes you have, the less expensive it is. However, the cost of a minute for artificial intelligence is always less than the cost of a minute for a typical customer support representative.”

“We are now focusing on customer service, although many of the technology applications that we have developed can be utilized in the future in transcribing or quality assurance between customer service and customers. Still, for the time being, we are concentrating on customer service.”

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