Justifying the hype on Chat bots in 2017

This article is going to begin with a general idea on bots, their use cases and then follow through with its business perspective and their potential on the market. We are also going to look at some of the things that people are creating with bots and see how they differ from apps as wel..

Introduction

Before we begin to understand what a bot IS, we should know what a bot is NOT.

What a Bot is not.
  1. A bot is not equal to Artificial Intelligence
  2. A bot is not just Natural Language Processing
  3. A bot is not just text interface

A bot is not equal to Artificial Intelligence but rather It can HAVE Artificial Intelligence. For example, just a simple bot that reads out your email can make do without any intelligence.

In addition, a bot may or may not have Natural Language Processing. We can program bots to understand simple commands to perform different task. For example, bots can let you browse a simple menu with just single word commands.

Moreover, there is no rule defining that bots should be a text interface only. They can have buttons and media for that matter. The interaction with bots can be with speech as well.

Then how can we truly grasp the fundamental concept of bots? Think of it as this way:

Simply, a bot is an application that performs an automated task. Nothing else.

Types of Bots

Come to think about it, we can classify bots into three categories

  1. Bots
  2. Chat Bots
  3. AI Bots

In the first category, a simple bot is something that does things for you which you have to do on a repetitive basis. For example, things like making a reservation, adding events to your calendar, displaying info and buying stuff online.

In the next category, chatbots are bots that stimulate conversation with the user. They engage people in a human conversation like manner making it feel more natural. For example, messenger bot, skype bots.

Moving on, AI Bots are bots that have a ‘learning ability’. They evolve over time. They gather ‘intelligence’ over time. For example, they interact with you and learn your preferences like Siri, Cortana and Google Now.

The Hype before Bots

After the dawn of Internet, websites were all the hype. Each and every business had to had one. Few later after that with the dawn of mobile phones and Android and IOS, mobile apps were all the hype. Every big company had to have that one too. Now we have reached a stage where users are getting a little exhausted with so many apps on their phones. Bots have brought some new excitement to the market where apps have lost some.

Apps VS Bots

As I researched more about bots the more I got confused on how they differ from apps. It seems sometimes the line differentiating between Apps and Bots just blurred out now and then. I started asking myself questions like:

  1. How are bots different than apps?
  2. What can bots do that apps cannot already?
  3. Are apps and bots vastly different than each other?
  4. In which ways are they similar?
  5. Are bots the new apps?
  6. Are bots just a temporary hype?
  7. Can bots replace mobile apps?

The answer to these questions can get a little tricky and I constantly found myself swinging between periods of clarity and confusion. Rather I decided to think in terms of how bots(Chat bots to be specific) are better than apps. Here are a few points:

  1. Bots are lot easier to install than apps. You just add them to your contact list like you would any of your acquaintances.
  2. There are lots of use cases that don’t justify a mobile app. For example, you would not want to install a whole new app just for your personal dentist or your mentor or your favorite boutique. Those are the cases where bots fit perfectly.
  3. Messaging apps are ubiquitous. Everyone has them, they are on the web and they are available for every mobile platform. They are used by every kind of group of people for communication be it Skype, Slack, Messenger, Viber, WeChat, WhatsApp and so on
  4. Messaging apps have the highest amount of user engagement. Among any other types of apps out there, it is evident that messaging apps are the apps that people use the most on their phones. This means that naturally chat bots have higher probability of being used.
  5. Easily bidirectional. We can say that messaging usually have two sides to the conversation; one is sending and other is receiving. With bots, the ‘receiving’ side of the conversation is always there. We just need to provide the ‘sending’ side.
  6. Humans are hardwired for language and conversation : We feel more natural if we are given a chance to navigate around by conversing instead of browsing through a jumble of menus and dropdowns.

Interesting Chatbot Startups

I searched around for some of the cool startups that have opened around chatbots and was amazed by the sheer number and creativity I discovered. Here are some of them:

  1. Eterni.me: You sign up and this platform learns your speech pattern and life stories. The whole purpose it to create a bot with your speech style and your memories so that people can converse with you after your death.
  2. Digitalgenius.com : This is a human + A.I Customer Service. Any customer inquiry is first handled by a courteous AI bot and if any further assistance is needed, it is passed on to a human operator.
  3. Demisto.com : It is company specializing on Security ChatOps platform. Basically chatops is conversation driven DevOps.
  4. Rightclick.io : This website guides you through creating a website you want by letting you tell it your preferences and requirements.

I personally think that Chatbots are going to disrupt the monopoly of mobile apps on the market and with the advancement in the field of AI the rate is going to go even quicker. Only time will tell if they can replace mobile apps totally, but I don’t think that is going to happen.