Malicious chatbots are frequently used to fill chat rooms with spam and advertisements, by mimicking human behavior and conversations or to entice people into revealing personal information, such as bank account numbers. They are commonly found on Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and other instant messaging protocols. There has also been a published report of a chatbot used in a fake personal ad on a dating service's website.
This is where most applications of NLP struggle, and not just chatbots. Any system or application that relies upon a machine’s ability to parse human speech is likely to struggle with the complexities inherent in elements of speech such as metaphors and similes. Despite these considerable limitations, chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated, responsive, and more “natural.”
With an unprecedented increase in the number of people using messaging apps today, and the advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, the rise of chat bots seems to have been inevitable. Research shows that the number of people using chat apps has surpassed the number of those using social networking apps, which is believable yet surprising!
Online chatbots save time and efforts by automating customer support. Gartner forecasts that by 2020, over 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human. However, the opportunites provided by chatbot systems go far beyond giving responses to customers’ inquiries. They are also used for other business tasks, like collecting information about users, helping to organize meetings and reducing overhead costs. There is no wonder that size of the chatbot market is growing exponentially.
The issue is only going to get more relevant. Facebook has made a big push with chatbots in its Messenger chat app. The company wants 1.2 billion people on the app to use it for everything from food delivery to shopping. Facebook also wants it to be a customer service utopia, in which people text with bots instead of calling up companies on the phone.
“Major shifts on large platforms should be seen as an opportunities for distribution. That said, we need to be careful not to judge the very early prototypes too harshly as the platforms are far from complete. I believe Facebook’s recent launch is the beginning of a new application platform for micro application experiences. The fundamental idea is that customers will interact with just enough UI, whether conversational and/or widgets, to be delighted by a service/brand with immediate access to a rich profile and without the complexities of installing a native app, all fueled by mature advertising products. It’s potentially a massive opportunity.” — Aaron Batalion, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners
Jabberwacky learns new responses and context based on real-time user interactions, rather than being driven from a static database. Some more recent chatbots also combine real-time learning with evolutionary algorithms that optimise their ability to communicate based on each conversation held. Still, there is currently no general purpose conversational artificial intelligence, and some software developers focus on the practical aspect, information retrieval.
Fify claims to be an intelligent fashion discovery and transaction bot. “Fify will have memory and personality to behave just as humans. She will behave differently with different people. She will remember one’s taste and preferences. She will be context aware of what is happening in your world. Fify will first talk only about Fynd Fashion and eventually do all sorts of thing related to fashion — discuss trends, alert you about new arrivals, and even gossip about the latest fad of a movie star,” their blog claims.
This simple act of marketing your brand on a messaging application can account for increased company exposure. Similar to email marketing, you can access a list of contacts to build upon. Messenger marketing allows you to directly send personalized data and content to your target audience while maintaining the goal of turning them into paying customers.
Other companies explore ways they can use chatbots internally, for example for Customer Support, Human Resources, or even in Internet-of-Things (IoT) projects. Overstock.com, for one, has reportedly launched a chatbot named Mila to automate certain simple yet time-consuming processes when requesting for a sick leave. Other large companies such as Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Renault and Citroën are now using automated online assistants instead of call centres with humans to provide a first point of contact. A SaaS chatbot business ecosystem has been steadily growing since the F8 Conference when Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg unveiled that Messenger would allow chatbots into the app. In large companies, like in hospitals and aviation organizations, IT architects are designing reference architectures for Intelligent Chatbots that are used to unlock and share knowledge and experience in the organization more efficiently, and reduce the errors in answers from expert service desks significantly. These Intelligent Chatbots make use of all kinds of artificial intelligence like image moderation and natural language understanding (NLU), natural language generation (NLG), machine learning and deep learning.
There are various search engines for bots, such as Chatbottle, Botlist and Thereisabotforthat, for example, helping developers to inform users about the launch of new talkbots. These sites also provide a ranking of bots by various parameters: the number of votes, user statistics, platforms, categories (travel, productivity, social interaction, e-commerce, entertainment, news, etc.). They feature more than three and a half thousand bots for Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype and Kik.
Streamchat is one of the most basic chatbot tools out there. It’s meant to be used for simple automations and autoresponders, like out-of-office replies or “We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!” messages, rather than for managing a broader workflow. It’s quick to implement and easy to start with if you’re just dipping your toes into the chatbot waters.