Philippe Bretier designs our future assistants

Discreet, but already indispensible to our daily lives, artificial intelligence has radically disrupted our digital uses. Its rapid development requires rare and multidisciplinary skills such as those of Philippe Bretier, who designs innovative services and specialises in conversational agents.

Can you explain what you do at Orange?

I use my expertise to help the teams working on voice assistants such as chatbots and virtual advisors such as Djingo. I work on voice technologies, artificial intelligence and man-machine conversation. But I also work on design, development and continuous improvement methodologies such as collecting and structuring the data that results from the conversations between these assistants and our customers. My role is also to get our teams to think about the end-to-end user experience to simplify our customers’ lives.

How has digital transformed your role?

I’ve always worked in digital jobs. But there are two elements that have particularly transformed my role and profession. Firstly the change in the volume and scale of data collection, and the ability to process it more precisely and efficiently. We’ve moved from lab technologies to consumer uses that are much more natural. The other element is that we’re now more focused on user experience, and this is reflected in the way we transform the data we collect into continually improving our services and customer relationships.

What are the 3 skills you need to be a conversational agent specialist?

It takes both technical skills to understand how robots' algorithms work; where they can be improved and what they may have difficulty with; and methodological skills to know how to leverage artificial intelligence by feeding it with the right type and amount of data by testing it... We must also be curious, looking out for trends and innovations. I constantly question things, and I think as much about the questions I need to ask as the solutions we need to provide.

If you wanted to convince someone to do the same job as you, what are the 3 points you would highlight?

Working with new technologies such as artificial intelligence and voice interfaces is exciting every day. Continuous improvement in how customers contact us and use our services, along with agility and immediate feedback, are also interesting aspects of the role. There’s no set routine and things progress very quickly. Finally, close collaboration with our marketing colleagues, developers, machine learning specialists, designers, ergonomists and software authors is also extremely rewarding.