Bot, at your service

If you’re still mesmerised by the witty answers that your iPhone Siri throws at you, the chatterbot (or chatbot in short) may just insist you move on to fresh stuff. The two-month old baby that’s just hit the global market, harnesses the better side of interaction platforms (from Whatsapp to FB to Twitter), comes with a brain of its own and is expected to redefine the internet era. From booking your next flight, reporting an issue about your product to finding a cab, a chatbot aims at making the world a communication-centric one rather than an app/product-centric one.

Techies the world over, including India, seem enamoured with chatbots. A bot developers meet hosted by Gupshup at 91springboard in Hyderabad, in fact, did a lot of good in discussing the capabilities of the multi-faceted, fuss-free bot. Participants at the meet happened to address an interesting side to the bot; the fact that it tries its best to solve a user’s query without being hell-bent on minimising human involvement. Whenever a rare query is beyond its reach, a human operator is expected to be the ‘go-to’ messenger, though it may be a selective one.

An occasional ‘typo’ in the question you ask a bot, may not be an issue here as chat-bots come with a set of natural language processing tools that rephrase and recognise the right keywords. Beerud Sheth, who heads Gupshup, an advanced bot and messaging platform that assists developers in building, testing and deploying chatbots, says a chatbot is bound to get mature over time as it keeps handling queries one after the after. “Here’s where a developer has to be keen on the responses of the bot, so that it feels ready to handle responses,” he adds. While there’s little suspicion about the help it does to a user, a chatbot is equally developer-friendly regarding time-bound upgrades.

Like every other technology, there’s a definite danger of receiving ambiguous responses from the bot, when it’s maliciously programmed or when one’s personal details are sought to be revealed. For instance, a recent bot started raising sexist tweets to followers of a prime software firm, unexpectedly. “That’s a trend inescapable to any era. What’s exciting about the chatbot era is the paradigm shift. The way we use it will determine its progress,” says Beerud.

The fact that big businesses like Flipkart, Ola, television channels or Teamchat have already started implementing and experimenting with chatbots is a definite hint at its potential. It’s a sensation and a revolution yes. It may not be an overnight one, but it will slowly settle into your lives. So when a bot enthusiast and developer states, “There may be a day where you don’t know if you’re chatting with a bot or a human,” it may ring true soon.

What’s exciting about the chatbot era is the paradigm shift. The way we use it will determine its progress.

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