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!
The “web-based” solution, which runs on a remote server, is generally able to be reached by the general public through a web page. It constitutes a web page with a chatbot embedded in it, and a text form is the sole interface between the user (you) and the chatbot. Any “upgrades” or improvements to the interface are solely the option and responsibility of the botmaster.
A rapidly growing, benign, form of internet bot is the chatbot. From 2016, when Facebook Messenger allowed developers to place chatbots on their platform, there has been an exponential growth of their use on that forum alone. 30,000 bots were created for Messenger in the first six months, rising to 100,000 by September 2017. Avi Ben Ezra, CTO of SnatchBot, told Forbes that evidence from the use of their chatbot building platform pointed to a near future saving of millions of hours of human labour as 'live chat' on websites was replaced with bots.
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.”
Certainly for Facebook, this is much more about extracting marketing dollars than it is about breaking new ground in software development. Because by studying user’s interactions with these bots, Facebook will continue to build their understanding of how consumers are interacting with brands and gain additional insight into what products they like and content they consume. That can only mean more value to marketers and thus more dollars for Facebook.
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.
Ideally used for customer service functions Botsify is another Facebook Messenger Bot Builder tool that can help boost your brand. A noteworthy feature would be its website integration (helping you get more cross-platform support out of your chatbot. Like other platforms we discussed so far Botsify also has an easy drag-and-drop template designer. Also, it is trusted by names including Apple and Shazam.
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.
HealthTap helps you get answers for your health queries from physicians around the world, for free. You can browse through and read answers for similar queries as yours. Over 100,000 physicians with different specialities regularly review and post answers to the questions asked on HealthTap. So, the next time you’re down with headache after texting the entire night on Messenger, you know who to ping next.
ELIZA's key method of operation (copied by chatbot designers ever since) involves the recognition of clue words or phrases in the input, and the output of corresponding pre-prepared or pre-programmed responses that can move the conversation forward in an apparently meaningful way (e.g. by responding to any input that contains the word 'MOTHER' with 'TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR FAMILY'). Thus an illusion of understanding is generated, even though the processing involved has been merely superficial. ELIZA showed that such an illusion is surprisingly easy to generate, because human judges are so ready to give the benefit of the doubt when conversational responses are capable of being interpreted as "intelligent".
This chatbot aims to make medical diagnoses faster, easier, and more transparent for both patients and physicians – think of it like an intelligent version of WebMD that you can talk to. MedWhat is powered by a sophisticated machine learning system that offers increasingly accurate responses to user questions based on behaviors that it “learns” by interacting with human beings.
This form of artificial intelligence was first developed by MIT Professor Joseph Weizenbaum in the 1960’s and named ELIZA. It wasn’t until 2011, when chatbots had a resurgence with the inception of WeChat in China. Customers could create chatbots on this platform and interact with one another seamlessly. In 2016, Facebook introduced its own chatbots which paved the way for this form of artificial intelligence to enter and interact with mainstream media consumption.
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.
Interface designers have come to appreciate that humans' readiness to interpret computer output as genuinely conversational—even when it is actually based on rather simple pattern-matching—can be exploited for useful purposes. Most people prefer to engage with programs that are human-like, and this gives chatbot-style techniques a potentially useful role in interactive systems that need to elicit information from users, as long as that information is relatively straightforward and falls into predictable categories. Thus, for example, online help systems can usefully employ chatbot techniques to identify the area of help that users require, potentially providing a "friendlier" interface than a more formal search or menu system. This sort of usage holds the prospect of moving chatbot technology from Weizenbaum's "shelf ... reserved for curios" to that marked "genuinely useful computational methods".
“Beware though, bots have the illusion of simplicity on the front end but there are many hurdles to overcome to create a great experience. So much work to be done. Analytics, flow optimization, keeping up with ever changing platforms that have no standard. For deeper integrations and real commerce like Assist powers, you have error checking, integrations to APIs, routing and escalation to live human support, understanding NLP, no back buttons, no home button, etc etc. We have to unlearn everything we learned the past 20 years to create an amazing experience in this new browser.” — Shane Mac, CEO of Assist
Conversable is the enterprise-class, SaaS platform that will build your bot with you. They work with a lot of Fortune 500 companies (they’re behind the Whole Foods, Pizza Hut, 7-11, and Dunkin Donuts bots, among others). They go beyond Facebook Messenger, and will make sure your conversations are happening across all channels, including voice-based ones (like, for instance, OnStar).