Machine Learning

Ask Data – A new and intuitive way to analyze data with natural language

Leading analytics platform Tableau Software has launched Ask Data, which leverages the power of natural language processing to enable people to ask data questions in plain language and instantly get a visual response right in Tableau.

This patent-pending capability makes it easier for anyone, regardless of skill set, to engage deeply with data and produce analytical insights they can share with others without having to do any setup or programming.

With Ask Data, customers can simply type a question such as, “What were my sales this month?” and Tableau will return an interactive data visualization that they can continue to explore, refine the question, and drill into further detail. There is no need to have a deep understanding of data structure or programming skills.

Ask Data uses sophisticated algorithms that are driven by an understanding of the person’s intent, not keywords, which helps Tableau return more relevant results. Ask Data knows, for example, when someone types “American furniture” with their sales data, they need “Product Category” filtered to “Furniture,” and “Country” set to “United States.” It combines statistical knowledge about a data source with contextual knowledge about real-world concepts: “Furniture” is a common value for the “Product Category” field and “America” is a synonym of the country “United States.” This inherent support for synonyms allows people to generate insights while using different terms to represent the same field, such as “sales” and “bookings.”

Additionally, Ask Data’s innovative parser automatically cuts through ambiguous language and uses Tableau’s analytical depth to make it easy for people to ask sophisticated questions in a natural, colloquial way. This means, if a question could be interpreted multiple ways, Ask Data will combine knowledge about the data source with past user activity and present a number of valid options to choose from, with the ability to refine the results if needed.

Fully integrated in the Tableau platform, Ask Data leverages Tableau’s patented Show Me technology and pioneering visual best practices to automatically represent the data in the best way possible.

Ask Data is available at no additional cost as part of Tableau Server and Tableau Online. Ask Data works with Tableau’s full range of supported data sources – both live and extract – allowing instant connection to any data source, without having to move the data or train the algorithm. And with no setup required, Ask Data integrates with Tableau Server’s existing security and governance capabilities, which makes it ready to use.

“With Ask Data, we’re helping make analytics ubiquitous by enabling anyone, regardless of expertise, to analyze data,” said Francois Ajenstat, Chief Product Officer at Tableau. “Our unique, conversational approach to natural language allows people to ask questions about how they naturally think. Ask Data provides a more intuitive and natural way to interact with data, lowering the barrier to entry for analytics and allowing people to ask questions in plain language and get highly relevant insights faster.”

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