‘How old is Wonder Woman?’: Retresco equips Telekom Smart Speaker with the knowledge of the world

An answer to every question: Retresco is developing an open domain question and answer system as a forward-looking solution on behalf of Deutsche Telekom.


Users’ demands on digital assistance systems as a source of information and knowledge are increasing. More and more often, these speech- or text-based systems therefore come into contact with so-called open questions. Such an open question could be, for example, ‘Why is the sky blue?’, ‘What was the name of the first aeroplane?’ or even ‘Until when is the nearest supermarket open?’. In addition to understanding the question and formulating the answer, the challenge lies in the availability of world knowledge and the associated information retrieval.

Unlike in static question-answer models, for example in the service of flight bookings or ticket bookings, when answering open knowledge questions there is no predetermined domain (knowledge area) in which the necessary knowledge is pre-structured via models and data. Since the system does not know what questions the users are asking, the entire world knowledge must be retrievable.


‘How old is Wonder Woman?’


Based on many millions of documents, a novel resolution method developed within the project and Retresco’s NLP expertise, the Open-Domain Question Answering (ODQA) system can provide the right answers to the many unanswered questions about our world.

Understanding the meaning of a linguistic utterance in terms of content and always including the most up-to-date data from trusted sources such as Wikipedia and Wikidata in a quick, meaningful response – all this is provided by the integrated AI solution based on a powerful, cloud-based IT infrastructure.

In this way, it is now also possible to answer questions about Wonder Woman’s age in real time: ‘Wonder Woman is a fictional character and therefore basically timeless.’


First place of operation: Deutsche Telekom’s voice platform


The first application of this innovation is Deutsche Telekom’s smart speaker. With the Magenta voice assistant, Telekom is positioning a voice platform on the trend-setting smart speaker market. Customers expect one thing above all from these systems: questions about the world should be answered correctly, comprehensively and according to the current state of knowledge. The World Knowledge skill developed by Retresco on behalf of Deutsche Telekom answers questions about geography, art, politics, history and many other areas of general knowledge. The results show that users interact intensively with their Telekom smart speaker via any kind of formulated questions.


‘The Magenta voice assistant understands questions about world knowledge and sustainably increases the interaction between users and the Telekom Smart Speaker with answers that are as intelligent as they are exciting. World knowledge is one of the most frequently used – the majority of users have interacted with the platform in this way at least once. In addition, the skill records one of the highest volumes of queries overall.’

Dr Mirko Knoll (Deutsche Telekom)


Innovative source of information for multifaceted interest groups


In addition to expanding the Magenta voice assistant with additional knowledge sources, numerous other use cases are imaginable. Currently, two particular scenarios are coming into focus: applications in companies and in the public sector.

Since the system, unlike search engines, not only delivers hits but answers, it is suitable for company employees as a source of all internal information that is available at any time. Here, the universal question-answer system processes relevant information sources in the inter- and intranet and delivers the best answer quickly and efficiently via text- or voice-based channels.

Citizens who want to use public services or end customers of companies also benefit from the simplified access to the world’s knowledge. Questions could include: ‘Until when is the nearest supermarket open?’, ‘Up to what amount are parcels insured?’ or even ‘From when is parental benefit paid?’. Consequently, the interest groups of open domain question-answering systems are just as multifaceted as the areas of application – and thus also their technological and economic potential in the future.



About Retresco

Retresco empowers companies to automatically generate high-quality texts based on data. As a pioneer in the field of AI-based language technologies, the Berlin-based tech company has been developing cross-industry solutions for the efficient and future-oriented automation of business processes since 2008.