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Google Cloud today announced the launch of the Rapid Response Virtual Agent program, a quick way to launch Contact Center AI agents for handling conversations with online chat or over the phone.

The Rapid Response program also makes it easy to add COVID-19 related templates like Pathfinder. Made by Alphabet’s Verily with Google Cloud, the Pathfinder template incorporates World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance in order to answer questions.

Google Cloud’s Contact Center AI launched in general availability last fall, and in February it introduced Dialogflow Mega Agent, AI capable of handling 10 times as many responses as a standard Contact Center AI offering.

A number of AI-driven software operations for customer service are expanding amid COVID-19. For example, on Tuesday, the startup Node raised $6 million in part to grow its online customer service operations for businesses and customers working from home.

Google Assistant and Alexa also answer a range of questions about COVID-19, but they can fall seriously short at times.

Outside Google, conversational AI is being applied for several applications during the coronavirus pandemic. Microsoft said in a blog post today that its Healthcare bot service has created more than 1,200 self assessment bots in conversations with 18 million people in places as far-flung as Rome, Copenhagen, and Tel Aviv.

Companies and organizations are making chatbots especially for speaking with people made lonely by social distancing, and to help people with symptoms understand if they should seek testing or other help from a medical professional.

About two weeks ago, a consortium of scholarly journals, companies including Microsoft, and White House CTO Michael Kratsios launched CORD-19, an open data set of more than 30,000 scholarly journal articles about the coronavirus family of viruses. CORD-19 is meant for use by medical researchers interested in a comprehensive collection of scholarly work, as well as AI researchers specializing who can use natural language processing to mine or summarize text and accelerate progress toward a cure or treatments.

Updated at 10 a.m. to remove a sentence stating that Google will make up to 600 requests per minute free until July 31 for Rapid Response program participants. Google informed us of the free feature, but did not include it in a blog post published when the news went live. Google representatives then reached out to VentureBeat to say the offer of free requests per minute is not available and organizations should meet with a Google Cloud sales rep to determine costs.


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