“Chatbots chatbots everywhere, nor any bots to chat with.”
This month’s #Worthwhile is dedicated entirely to chatbots. Touted by many as the next frontier of digital interaction, this post will attempt to supply you with everything you need to decide for yourself.
Exactly a year ago today, I wrote a Worthwhile links that included a bit at the end referring to a post by Chris Messina (the inventor of the hashtag) about conversational commerce – conducting your online shopping through chat-style, stream-based interfaces such as sms, or other chat type interfaces like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger etc – platforms that we’re all so accustomed to using on a daily basis. The chat might be powered by a human on the other end or, and increasingly more likely, an artificially intelligently trained machine (a.k.a a bot) that understands how to respond to the varying types of inputs users are likely to provide.
What is a bot?
A bot is software that is designed to automate the kinds of tasks you would usually do on your own, like making a dinner reservation, adding an appointment to your calendar or fetching and displaying information. The increasingly common form of bots, chatbots, simulate conversation. They often live inside messaging apps — or are at least designed to look that way — and it should feel like you’re chatting back and forth as you would with a human.
Now, bots aren’t exactly new, they’ve been around in one form or another for years such as ELIZA built in 1966, or even Microsoft’s most
friendly annoying Office Assistant
Clippy that lived between ’97 and 2003.
What makes today’s bots different from the ones built decades ago? What’s changed?
Two computing paradigms have hit a level of maturity and are starting to collide:
- The massive advancement of artificial intelligence and natural language processing required to understand the fine nuances of human inputs means bots can deliver more value back to the user.
- The massive popularity of chat platforms such as SMS (all phones), WhatsApp (1bn+ active users), Facebook Messenger (±900m), WeChat (±639m) and Line (±215m).
The practical applications are vast – a customer service bot could train itself by consuming the millions of customer service logs you have stored in your company’s basement (Telkom and MTN bots would be so super smart), an automated commerce bot that could take an order for pizza via Facebook messenger or sms, a financial advisor bot that can advise you based on a perfect understanding of your entire financial history and habits as well as a vast understanding of market trends, what about a doctor bot that’s consumed all the world’s medical research and can read all your health data tracked by your iPhone and digitised health records – no waiting rooms or making appointments.
I think we’re still a way from actually using a bot that makes our lives better, but with the tools now available to build your own bot with a fairly low need for programming knowledge we will undoubtedly start seeing interesting use cases bubbling up from tinkerers and makers (which also happens to be something of a megatrend).
Drop me a line if you want to chat bots
Herewith, the list of links…
We’re excited to introduce bots for the Messenger Platform. Bots can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages all by interacting directly with the people who want to get them.
And you thought SMS was just for spamming your database? Using SMS as a retail commerce channel These Startups Are Selling Vinyl Records, Graphic Novels, and Indian Food Via Text Message – Bloomberg
Back in the day, vinyl geeks schlepped to a record store or flea market and spent hours going through bins of dusty albums. ReplyYes is a whole lot easier.
The Seattle startup sends a daily text message suggesting a vinyl recommendation determined by an algorithm. You want? Reply yes. In about six days the album arrives in the mail. That’s it.
More high street brands testing the waters – H&M, Sephora chatbots gain visibility in Kik’s new marketplace
H&M, Sephora and Weather Channel are among a number of brands now appearing in messaging application Kik’s new Bot Shop marketplace, potentially driving discovery and use as chatbots gain steam.
Microsoft are betting big in this space too.. I’m sure we’ll see their AI platform Cortana finding its way into many non-MS platforms too.. Microsoft brings Skype bots to Mac and the Web
How to roll your own bot. #weekendproject! – Five Steps To Build Your Own Random Non-Sequitur Twitter Bot
The type of tool that could turn a tinkerer into the next Zuckerberg – Cheap Bots Done Quick
This site will help you make a Twitterbot! They’re easy to make and free to run
When it comes to language, teenspeak is a thing unto itself.
From acronyms, to abbreviations, to liberal use of the wordliterally,kids these days on the internet have a very specific way of speaking. On Wednesday, Microsoft launched a new artificial intelligence chatbot, named Tay, created toconduct research on conversational understandingof young people online.
Thanks for reading.