Bots, sure, but what do they do?

What are bots?

One of the questions I get the most is “What is a bot?”. It might seem obvious for tech guys but for the majority working in non-technical fields a bot is just a 3 letters word. A bot is a powered by Artificial Intelligence, usually software, that can converse with you. It is designed to automate tasks that you would usually do yourself, like booking a table at a restaurant, a flight ticket or finding out what is is showing at the local cinema. The most common form of bots are chatbots, they simulate conversation. They can live inside an app, a website or messaging app.

Robot with Frank

Sounds cool but what for?

It’s Saturday afternoon and you phone vibrates. “According to your calendar, you have nothing planned tonight. The Garnier Opera says they have last minute seats for this ballet. What do you think?”. You’re not entirely opposed to some culture tonight but ballet isn’t your cup of tea. “Why not, but are they any operas instead?”. Your bot suggests an opera at The Bastille that suits you perfectly. Reservation and payment are made with your previously configured information. Your Saturday night is booked.

That is just one of many use cases where bots can be useful. One of the most interesting ones is the nurse bot. Lots of people in hospitals have disabilities. Sometimes they can’t talk, see or move due to injuries or illnesses. This is where a bot could actually help them feel more secure. Imagine one of your relatives is staying in a hospital and is a tetraplegic. By just talking to a bot saying “This part of my body hurts” the bot can provide support by choosing to call either the doctor or the nurse depending on the needs.

Some bots handle a variety of simple service requests but as bot technology improves, they will be able to automate very complex tasks and understand the underlying intention of complex sentences.

Baymax — Big Hero 6

Apps versus bots

I guess now you’re wondering how bots differ from apps. Couldn’t we have bots within apps? Sure we could, but the purpose of a bot is to be decentralised. You do not install a bot, it will just be there within your contacts on your phone and you could just talk to it anytime you want. Let’s take an example, why would you need an app for Deliveroo, Uber or your favourite airline? Wouldn’t it be simpler to have a concierge bot within your contacts, Messenger, WhatsApp or any other messaging platform? You could just ask it whatever you want, whenever and wherever and it will get back to you. From a budget point of view building an app is quite expensive. You need to have Android and iOS development teams with a strong UX & UI designer. You need to test the app and submit it to app stores for approvals. And repeat the whole process for every update. Building a bot is way cheaper and allows you to reach way more people, because you are leveraging the fact that messaging apps are built by someone else.

Humans versus bots

WALL-E & Eve

Another very important thing to consider is the power of language, until now the domain of human beings. Language has evolved to become powerful, nuanced, and flexible. It allows humans to connect better, convey emotions and feelings. Good news — bots are catching up very fast.

PE Lieb — Recast.AI

This post was originally published on our blog. If you enjoyed it, you might also like: Datasets, the gold of Machine Learning

This post is posted in the Chatbot Developers blog. Join the adventure!

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