Marketer’s Take: While I didn’t like being directed to a website to finalize my purchase, I understand why Spring decided on this approach given how the Messenger platform was just released. Yet, this may be a sound strategy if you’re looking to augment upselling and cross-selling opportunities or looking for deeper analytics than what Facebook Messenger is providing.
A chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Such programs are often designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, although as of 2019, they are far short of being able to pass the Turing test. Chatbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. Some chatbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler ones scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database.
Chatbots are used in a diverse fashion, across all verticals and on many different types of channel, e.g. websites, social messaging, etc. In business their application accelerated rapidly in 2019, leading Van Baker, research vice president at Gartner, to predict that: “By 2020, over 50% of medium to large enterprises will have deployed product chatbots."
Disney invited fans of the movie to solve crimes with Lieutenant Judy Hopps, the tenacious, long-eared protagonist of the movie. Children could help Lt. Hopps investigate mysteries like those in the movie by interacting with the bot, which explored avenues of inquiry based on user input. Users can make suggestions for Lt. Hopps’ investigations, to which the chatbot would respond.
However, as irresistible as this story was to news outlets, Facebook’s engineers didn’t pull the plug on the experiment out of fear the bots were somehow secretly colluding to usurp their meatbag overlords and usher in a new age of machine dominance. They ended the experiment due to the fact that, once the bots had deviated far enough from acceptable English language parameters, the data gleaned by the conversational aspects of the test was of limited value.
Marketer’s Take: A great example of a chat bot that makes purchasing products and services easy. In its next generation, I expect 1-800-Flowers to ping me on special occasions, send Facebook messages to the recipient automatically, and notify me on Facebook that the flowers have been delivered. The combined digital and physical experience will up the game in the flower delivery business.
ALICE – which stands for Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity, an acronym that could have been lifted straight out of an episode of The X-Files – was developed and launched by creator Dr. Richard Wallace way back in the dark days of the early Internet in 1995. (As you can see in the image above, the website’s aesthetic remains virtually unchanged since that time, a powerful reminder of how far web design has come.)
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.”
Pop-culture references to Skynet and a forthcoming “war against the machines” are perhaps a little too common in articles about AI (including this one and Larry’s post about Google’s RankBrain tech), but they do raise somewhat uncomfortable questions about the unexpected side of developing increasingly sophisticated AI constructs – including seemingly harmless chatbots.
Think of a message thread as the place where you connect and interact with your users. Build just one bot, and your experience is available on all platforms where Messenger exists, including iOS, Android, and web. It also removes the friction of your users having to download one more app, on top of all the apps they already have and may not use, given Messenger is now used by 900 million people every month.