IBM announced the launch of new AI and automation capabilities in IBM Watson Assistant designed to make it easier for businesses to create enhanced customer service experiences across any channel phone, web, SMS and any messaging platform. This includes a new collaboration with IntelePeer, a leading Communications Platform-as-a-Service provider, to set up and test a voice agent, and a new agent app designed to enable a seamless hand-off to a live agent while maintaining the conversation's context. The company is adding new features in Watson Assistant, the company's intelligent virtual agent, to help businesses leverage AI and NLP to address customer issues on first contact. Watson Assistant is designed to more quickly provide customers with relevant answers over the phone, SMS, web, or any messaging platform, and seamlessly hand-off to a live agent when additional support is needed. The new features include: Add voice capabilities to Watson Assistant: The IntelePeer Atmosphere Communications Platform-as-a-Service is now available as an add-on in Watson Assistant so that users with a Plus and Enterprise plan can set up voice capabilities and a new phone number for a virtual agent quickly. If businesses already have an existing contact center phone system, IntelePeer can also provide the connection between Watson Assistant and the existing phone system using industry standards. Using IntelePeer, Watson Assistant is now designed to connect to nearly every major contact center platform that uses the SIP protocol in as little as half an hour with no coding. Help customers resolve issues on first contact with Watson Assistant Search Skill: Watson Assistant's Search Skill feature now includes short-answer retrieval, which is based on an innovative question-answering (QA) system from IBM Research. This enables the virtual agent to return an answer in a few words from longer sentences or passages and provide the context on where the answer came from. FAQ extraction is also now generally available in Search Skill. FAQ extraction is designed to help administrators keep the virtual agent up to date with broader sources of information, without having to constantly make manual updates. Facilitate a seamless hand-off with the new agent app: Watson Assistant's new agent app feature is designed to help customer service agents pick up with a customer right where the virtual agent left off. When a customer calls in, IBM's speech detection models, which are designed to provide more accurate transcriptions out-of-the-box, deliver a near real-time transcription of the conversation. When the hand-off occurs, the new agent app provides the customer service agent with the latest transcript right on their screen. This means customers don't have to repeat their questions and agents are empowered to resolve issues even more quickly.