May 18, 2017
We are not going to repeat the same cliched lines of how mobile apps are revolutionizing the industry. But we are going to talk about newer sensations – chatbots for mobile apps and chatbots for business.
Contrary to widespread belief, chatbots were invented a long time ago. They have been trending recently but their inception and development are rather old. Essentially, chatbots are a programmed input-output system. These bots are programmed to interact with humans on closed domains through written text.
Users ask simple questions such as “what’s the weather like,” for which chatbots scan for keywords and try to match them with its data-set. Usually, one of the keywords would be a match and the chatbot would give users a designated answer. The key element here is context. Chatbots run on context, as they are in a closed domain.
Over the last few years, the rage around chatbots for mobile apps has been phenomenal. However, their inception and development started in 1966. Eliza, a medical chatbot, can be considered as the mother of all chatbots. Eliza is similar to the new age chatbots, i.e. it is limited to a closed domain, in this case, Rogerian psychotherapy.
Decades later, in 2001, AOL released SmarterChild a commercial chatbot on AIM. It was a rudimentary bot that gave information about cinema programs, news, and the weather. Although it was smarter than Eliza, it was restrictive due to its default answers and an ever-sustained confusion.
The above-mentioned chatbots were designed for desktops. However, developers are frantically scattering to create chatbots for Android apps and sophisticated artificial intelligence chatbot apps.
One of the crucial elements in the development of a chatbot is the Turing Test. Named after the famous scientist Alan Turing, this test checks if a machine can imitate human intelligence. In simpler words, the aim of this test is to check if a machine can fool us humans to think that it too is a human.
When IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov, many thought that machine intelligence had reached its pinnacle. Many machines since have defeated humans in similar games. But these machines or bots were designed to do a specific task. You cannot expect Deep Blue to play poker!
There are several reasons as to why chatbots for business would prevail in the future. Here are the top five reasons:
– A Gartner’s report says that app usage will plateau in a few years. As more and more smartphone users become exhausted with the apps and their lack of ingenuity, chatbots are poised to take over. Additionally, app development is expensive.
– Chatbots help in reducing the number of apps we use. If you think about it, all the websites and apps that we use daily are just a collection of information. If this information can be packaged into an app which uses a sophisticated chatbot, it would make other apps obsolete. Services such as booking hotel rooms and flight tickets, buying movie tickets etc. can be done using one app.
– Chatbots can easily track customer responses and feedback. Thanks to this, customer support apps can bid us farewell. Framework mapping or operation mapping is simple and can be done efficiently using chatbots.
– As machine learning and natural language processing advance, the responses given by chatbots will definitely improve. Machine learning bots can evolve their knowledge from user behavior and offer personalized responses. Compared to initial conversations, the 100th conversation will have better and intelligent responses.
– In the current world that we live in, it is necessary for organizations to engage with their customers regularly. Mobile apps are the best platform for this engagement. To prove this point, consider the following, emails have been around for a while now, would you rather email your favorite organization or communicate with them using their app? We are sure that most of you would choose the app over the email. There is a business perspective to the prevalence of chatbots and mobile apps. Businesses would stand to gain if their customers would communicate through the app. All that businesses should do then is integrate a chatbot into their apps.
The last developer conference that was held in April 2016 saw many ground-breaking announcements from many leading technologies and social media companies. Facebook announced that it is open for integrating its messaging platform with chatbots. Slack a leading messaging platform for SMBs and enterprises alike announced that it would create a chatbot that would cater to the needs of their users. Microsoft, Telegram, Kik, and WeChat followed suit.
Since the announcement, the market for chatbots has grown exponentially. Developers even came up with celebrity chatbots. Some of the popular celebrity chatbots include George Takei, Elon Musk, Kanye West, among others.
Artificial intelligence researchers are themselves not clear as to what intelligence is, how it can be defined and where it is headed. This could be a limitation for chatbots.
Nevertheless, we are certain that there will come a day when chatbots will not be limited to a closed domain. The future of chatbots is looking exuberant. Chatbot developers are giving us glimpses into their visions, where a single chatbot would suffice.
Sam Mandel, CEO of a company that develops a weather forecasting chatbot – Poncho, predicts that in the future, we will not just be limited to asking for information on if it is going to rain or be sunny. He quotes, “Our goal is to make it the first bot you want to be friends with.” He adds that if you insult Poncho in the future, he would refrain from answering for a while.
It is interesting to notice that apps are limited to specific functions. Users are hesitating to install separate apps for each function/service. The cumbersome effect of creating new profiles for each app does take a toll on users. If social media and technology giants such as Facebook and Microsoft integrate a robust chatbot into their services, the notion of search engines and browsers will become redundant.
To conclude, we are still in the initial stages of chatbot development. There are only a handful chatbots that are available. Most of them function only through command buttons. As the saying goes, nobody in this world is perfect, nothing that is on the face of this earth is perfect, neither will chatbots be. The logical thing right now to do is be patient and keep a lookout on artificial intelligence – it could be the corner stop of chatbots of the future. As Spike Jonze depicted in his movie ‘Her,’ there might come a day when we fall in love with artificial intelligence.
What are your thoughts about artificial intelligence and its use in chatbots? Do you think that chatbots are actually intelligent or are they just trying to mimic intelligence?
Please share your thoughts on by commenting below.
What we do need to focus on is better experience, more business process integrations, and making the interaction models more mature and intuitive. Our focus should be on the journey for bots adoption how it is going to play out. If you are interested you can read more about it on our collection of blogs or create your own bot in 10 mins at http://www.engati.com