Building a Chatbot Doesn’t Make You an A.I. Company

Florian Treml
Feb 16 · 2 min read

According to the report The State of AI 2019: Divergence there is a lot of Bullshit Bingo around the thing called Artificial Intelligence (AI). From page 101 of the report:

“In approximately 60% of the cases (…) there was no evidence of AI material to a company’s value proposition.”

Is this the state of AI in 2019 ? Hopefully not.

This means on the other hand that 40% of AI companies are not really making value of AI technologies. Product taglines are full of buzzwords to make it appear interesting. For example this one:

“With the help of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and the Blockchain our chatbot organizes a meetup with all your friends”

What this product actually does:

  • It connects to various calendar applications
  • It finds a free spot for you and your friends
  • It blocks this spot in the calendar applications

While such a product might make sense, it has nearly nothing to do with AI (and I don’t see anything Blockchain-related here, but that’s another story). The user interface is a chatbot application based on natural language: “hey xy-bot, organize a dinner with my closest friends next week”. Surely, there is intent and entity resolution involved, but as long as this company doesn’t work on it’s own NLU engine, which it most likely doesn’t, I don’t call this company an AI company.

Using an NLU engine doesn’t make you an AI company.

There are reasonable use cases for AI, specifically for Machine Learning, in this scenario though:

  • The chatbot learns favorite locations from previous bookings of similar-minded people
  • The chatbot learns acceptable locations from other data sources, based on eating preferences and lifestyle
  • The chatbot learns something else based on user behavior or historic data

Building a chatbot by using existing NLU technology doesn’t make you an AI company.

Is Botium an AI Company ?

Botium Test Levels

Botium is a software stack for training and testing conversational AI. Does this make Botium an AI company ? I would answer this question with NO. Without strong knowledge in NLU/NLP technology, it would not be possible to build such a product, so all of our project members have a background in speech processing and machine learning (one of us even built an own NLU engine for hungarian language some years ago). Although we are interfacing with all important players out there, there is not a single piece of artificial intelligence code in our current products.

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