For example, if you ask the assistant, “Which additive is suited for printing ink?,” the system obviously has to be able to understand each word. Among other things, COATINO™ had to learn that “additive” designates a certain category of coating components. In the next step, the assistant has to access its data, search through it, create suitable links, and assign the data to a possibly relevant result. To do so, it first breaks down the sequence of sounds into their smallest components and conducts a data search on the basis of characteristic properties. A special challenge for the assistant is that COATINO™ has to be able to understand not only German nouns in the nominative case but also in other cases. The researchers also want to make sure that the speaker’s dialect or accent won’t hamper the result. The ultimate aim is to enable COATINO™ to understand customers’ pronunciations worldwide. Added to these challenges are the speakers’ different talking speeds and pitches as well as the specific context of a discussion. “The training process is very nerve-wracking,” says Kröhl. “And after the trial run with our colleague in Shanghai was finally successful, it went wrong with our colleagues in Essen.” For almost two years now, COATINO™ has been jointly developed and trained by the business line and an external development company from Berlin. The assistant passed its first important development test when the prototype was demonstrated at the ECS.