What is Natural Language Understanding & How Does it Work?

What is natural language understanding NLU?

What Is NLU

The efficiencies that NLU brings will get more and more valuable as the amount of data increases. In essence, it takes AI beyond simply question and response and into the realm of conversation, where the precise use of grammar and language is often neglected. Put simply, where NLP would allow a computer to identify and comprehend words, NLU puts those words into a context.

What Is NLU

Natural Language Understanding (NLU) connects with human communication’s deeper meanings and purposes, such as feelings, objectives, or motivation. It employs AI technology and algorithms, supported by massive data stores, to interpret human language. The computational methods used in machine learning result in a lack of transparency into “what” and “how” the machines learn. This creates a black box where data goes in, decisions go out, and there is limited visibility into how one impacts the other. What’s more, a great deal of computational power is needed to process the data, while large volumes of data are required to both train and maintain a model. Grammar complexity and verb irregularity are just a few of the challenges that learners encounter.


In machine learning (ML) jargon, the series of steps taken are called data pre-processing. The idea is to break down the natural language text into smaller and more manageable chunks. These can then be analyzed by ML algorithms to find relations, dependencies, and context among various chunks. In addition to making chatbots more conversational, AI and NLU are being used to help support reps do their jobs better. Natural language understanding (NLU) is a subfield of natural language processing (NLP), which involves transforming human language into a machine-readable format. An ideal natural language understanding or NLU solution should be built to utilise an extensive bank of data and analysis to recognise the entities and relationships between them.

This technology allows for more efficient and intelligent applications in a business environment. For instance, with NLU, you can build contact centre systems that can intelligently assess a call and route the person behind it to the right agent. NLU also empowers users to interact with devices and systems int heir own words, without being restrained by fixed responses.

The future for language

Many platforms also support built-in entities , common entities that might be tedious to add as custom values. For example for our check_order_status intent, it would be frustrating to input all the days of the year, so you just use a built in date entity type. The NLU system uses Intent Recognition and Slot Filling techniques to identify the user’s intent and extract important information like dates, times, locations, and other parameters. The system can then match the user’s intent to the appropriate action and generate a response.

What Is NLU

Although it may be attractive to think about voice-first tech in the context of virtual assistants, voice-first technologies are much more pervasive than that. Voice-first tech can be used in call centers to detect fraudulent callers, improve customer service and even drive new sales opportunities. It’s one thing to know what NLU is, but how does natural language understanding (NLU) work on an everyday basis?

Technology updates and resources

Early attempts at natural language processing were largely rule-based and aimed at the task of translating between two languages. NLU is a computer technology that enables computers to understand and interpret natural language. It is a subfield of artificial intelligence that focuses on the ability of computers to understand and interpret human language. As humans, we can identify such underlying similarities almost effortlessly and respond accordingly. But this is a problem for machines—any algorithm will need the input to be in a set format, and these three sentences vary in their structure and format. And if we decide to code rules for each and every combination of words in any natural language to help a machine understand, then things will get very complicated very quickly.

  • Another challenge that NLU faces is syntax level ambiguity, where the meaning of a sentence could be dependent on the arrangement of words.
  • NLU is the process of understanding a natural language and extracting meaning from it.
  • For example, the chatbot could say, “I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with our service.
  • When it comes to natural language, what was written or spoken may not be what was meant.
  • John Ball, cognitive scientist and inventor of Patom Theory, supports this assessment.

NLP attempts to analyze and understand the text of a given document, and NLU makes it possible to carry out a dialogue with a computer using natural language. When given a natural language input, NLU splits that input into individual words — called tokens — which include punctuation and other symbols. The tokens are run through a dictionary that can identify a word and its part of speech. The tokens are then analyzed for their grammatical structure, including the word’s role and different possible ambiguities in meaning. A basic form of NLU is called takes written text and converts it into a structured format for computers to understand.

For example, in medicine, machines can infer a diagnosis based on previous diagnoses using IF-THEN deduction rules. Data capture applications enable users to enter specific information on a web form using NLP matching instead of typing everything out manually on their keyboard. This makes it a lot quicker for users because there’s no longer a need to remember what each field is for or how to fill it up correctly with their keyboard.

What Is NLU

Instead of relying on computer language syntax, NLU enables a computer to comprehend and respond to human-written text. Grammar and the literal meaning of words pretty much go out the window whenever we speak. Speech recognition is an integral component of NLP, which incorporates AI and machine learning. Here, NLP algorithms are used to understand natural speech in order to carry out commands. Natural Language Understanding in AI aims to understand the context in which language is used. It considers the surrounding words, phrases, and sentences to derive meaning and interpret the intended message.

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An example of NLU in action is a virtual assistant understanding and responding to a user’s spoken request, such as providing weather information or setting a reminder. NLU can analyze the sentiment or emotion expressed in text, determining whether the sentiment is positive, negative, or neutral. This helps in understanding the overall sentiment or opinion conveyed in the text. NER systems scan input text and detect named entity words and phrases using various algorithms. In the statement “Apple Inc. is headquartered in Cupertino,” NER recognizes “Apple Inc.” as an entity and “Cupertino” as a location. Language processing begins with tokenization, which breaks the input into smaller pieces.

What Is NLU

By making sense of more-complex and delineated search requests, NLU more quickly moves customers from browsing to buying. A growing number of companies are finding that NLU solutions provide strong benefits for analyzing metadata such as customer feedback and product reviews. In such cases, NLU proves to be more effective and accurate than traditional methods, such as hand coding. Voice-based intelligent personal assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Alexa also benefit from advances in NLU that enable better understanding of user requests and provision of more-personalized responses. To demonstrate the power of Akkio’s easy AI platform, we’ll now provide a concrete example of how it can be used to build and deploy a natural language model. This kind of customer feedback can be extremely valuable to product teams, as it helps them to identify areas that need improvement and develop better products for their customers.

This can be done through different software programs that are available today. In order to have an effective machine translation of NLU, it is important to first understand the basics of how machine translation works. The neural symbolic approach combines these two types of AI to create a system that can reason about human language. The neural part of the system is used to understand the meaning of words and phrases, while the symbolic part is used to reason about the relationships between them. NLU’s customer support feature has become so valuable for digital platforms that they can manage to offer essential solutions to customers and quickly transform the critical message to technical teams. AI-based chatbots are becoming irreplaceable as they offer virtual reality-based tours of all major products to customers without making them pay a visit to physical stores.

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What Is NLU