What are Chatbots today, how do they work and how do they impact businesses?
In a nutshell, Chatbots are simple artificial intelligence systems that you interact with via text. Those interactions can be straightforward, like asking a bot to give you a weather report, or more complex, like having one troubleshoot a problem with your internet service.
With several of these messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, it’s no surprise that the global chatbot market is expected to grow drastically between 2017 and 2023 (Business Insider predicts 80% of Businesses will implement use of chatbots by 2020). Facebook alone has more than 11,000 chatbots you can interact with including 1-800-Flowers (to order flowers), Uber Chatbot (to find a ride), and PonchoChat bot (to check the weather). Businesses are beginning to see the benefits of using chatbots for their consumer-facing products. Oracle conducted a survey that showed that business leaders and decision makers are turning to the broader umbrella of automation technologies, which includes chatbots, for things like sales, marketing, and customer service. 42% of participants believe automation technologies in these areas will most improve the customer experience. Also, 48% said that they already use automation technology for these business functions, with 40% planning to implement some form of automated technology in the next 2-3 years.
There are several aspects that go into the functionality of Chatbots: Knowledge sources, conversation memory, stock phrases, keyword matcher, sentence constructor, parser and interlocutor. While we usually think of chatbots as a single category that has universally shared goals, the truth is that today’s chatbots fall along a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, there are programmatic chatbots who give specific responses to specific questions. Along the spectrum a bit, there are chatbots that attempt to extract as much information from you as possible. Somewhere along the middle of the spectrum are chatbots that are focused on replacing or minimizing human to human interaction, and finally at the total left end of the spectrum you strip away the super-minimal layer of chatbot interaction and you’re left with no chatbot interaction at all…you know, like one human talking to another human (so old school).
Here’s a nice little infographic to give you a visual of the Chatbot Spectrum:
Artificial Intelligence has reached a point in which chatbots can have progressively interactive and sentient conversations, thus enabling businesses to leverage the inexpensive and wide-reaching technology to engage more customers while making major savings on labor costs. From a failed psychiatric interaction between two bots to software programs that use messaging as the interface through which to carry out any number of tasks, from scheduling a meeting, to reporting weather, to helping users buy a pair of shoes, chatbots have risen tremendously.
A little history
Technology has been evolving at rapid speeds fairly recently, but rise of the ChatBots can be dated back to the 1950’s. Yes, we’re serious. A man named Alan Turing had a theory that an intelligent machine would be indistinguishable from a human being through a conversation that is merely text-based. His theories and ideas laid the foundation for the ChatBot revolutions.
16 years later (1966), the world’s first ChatBot was born, and her name was ELIZA. Joseph Weizenbaum created ELIZA to parody a Rogerian therapist, largely by rephrasing many of the patient’s statements as questions and posing them to the patient. Thus, for example, the response to “My head hurts” might be “Why do you say your head hurts?” The response to “My mother hates me” might be “Who else in your family hates you?” ELIZA was named after Eliza Doolittle, a working-class character in George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, who is taught to speak with an upper-class accent.
I don’t think ELIZA was a very successful psychiatrist. If you’d like to read the entire transcript, you can find it here.
ChatBots continued to revolutionize. In 1988, Jabberwacky was the first chatbot to simulate natural human chat in an interesting, entertaining and humorous manner. Then along came ALICE, in 1998, inspiring the film “Her” in which a human falls in love with a computer program. It is unreal how real ChatBots have become.
The first Chatbot that achieved widespread use was SmarterChild, who you might remember from your buddy list on AIM and MSN in the early 2000’s. SmartChild served as the blueprint that most modern chatbot builders are now following, and the rise of ChatBots skyrocketed.
To learn more about how chatbots are designed and built and their impact on businesses join us for a free hour long webinar led by one of the leading experts in the field, Stefan Kojoharov on Thursday February 23rd at 1pm EST. In this webinar, Stefan will cover:
- The Design and Build a Chatbot webinar will focus on:
- The impact of Chatbots and VA technologies on businesses
- Learn how to Design a Chatbot and leverage conversation UI
- Practice building a simple Chatbot