Chatbots are a simple concept, a user messages a bot and the bot provides an answer appropriate to the message that it has received. I’m sure that by now we’ve all either heard of, or experienced using a chatbot, but what’s next for these bots? Can they do any more for us, or are they stuck with their limited capability?
From crunching long articles down into small sound-bites for us to read to recommending the clothes a user should purchase from a store, these are just two of the thousands of chatbots available to developers and users alike on unofficial Bot stores across the web. These chatbots have been seized upon by marketers and advertisers alike in anticipating to be on board with the next best thing.
Chatbots are to no extent a new approach. In fact, they’ve been around since the dawn of the internet in many incarnations, be it through AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, automated online assistants and the likes of Cleverbot/ChatwithIGod/Santabot. It is only now that they’re increasingly making a presence on modern to-date apps across all of our devices, just this time with a specific goal in mind – making a profit.
The new generation
In the same way that Siri and it’s counterpart, Cortana have been advancing in their voice recognition software of which their sophistication in understanding what a user is saying and how best to respond to their query appropriately; chatbots too are advancing at rapid rates. The current generation of chatbots are miles off from the ones most of us were around to experience 10 years ago – they now come with increased “humanisation”, the ability to sense emotion from what a user types to them. These chatbots too can learn from what’s said, gone are the days where they could only respond to certain triggering keywords, now they can store a profile on its user – including the things they like, their persona and even data on the users typing attitude.
Chatbots within apps such as Facebook and Kik Messenger can even draw in information from external sources; scrubbing personal information about its user such as their name, age, gender, location amongst more to truly give a more personalised service (machine learning). It’ll only be a matter of time until we treat chatbots like our own external knowledge base, there always to be relied upon.
All of these together make a personal connection from the chatbot to a user. Personal connection really is the recipe for success. Users like to be satisfied by the technology or technology feature that they’re using, they want a positive outcome that gives them the answer they’re looking for. What the chatbots of this generation offer of which they previously sorely lacked are human characteristics, characteristics that trick us into forgetting that we’re simply talking to a computerised system feeding us the information that we’re after. The mastering of human attitude is and will be the most prevalent change of the current chatbots, of which is forever changing and developing to enhance the ability in which the chatbots can successfully understand what it is being asked and how to best reply.
To the future
As far as chatbots go, and have gone, they’re still on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of artificial intelligence. Virtual assistants, such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa are miles ahead. The two are however a completely different ballgame, chatbots and virtual assistants both exist to cater for different causes – where chatbots exist to be the sweetheart for marketers and advertisers in advertising to the mass market through a simple interactive interface, virtual assistants facilitate user queries through the biggest technology such as Windows, iPhone, Android and Alexa.
The split between voice-based virtual assistants and text-based chatbots are one whose future could absorb each other. The similarities between the two are significant, but they both stand to assist users – whether for marketing purposes or not. Could a merger possibly happen, though? Personally, I see them both to soon be indistinguishable in the near future. As currently, chatbots mainly use text-based interfaces to communicate with the end user, even though voice-based search now accumulates over 20% of all searches on Google. The likelihood of the future of chatbots being bots that we can verbally chat to about what clothes we should buy from a store or inform us of the news we desire based on our stipulation is a highly likely prospect.