Chatbots (of) the future!

The greatest trick ever played by a Chatbot was to deceive a Human into believing that it was Human!

What’s next for Chatbots? How will they change in 2018?

Chatbots learn to do new things by trawling through a huge swath of information. They are designed to spot patterns and repeat actions associated with them when triggered by keywords, phrases or other stimuli. They seem clever, but they are not. They are adaptive & predictive in their learning curve. This means that if the input is poor, or repeats questionable statements, the chatbots behavior will evolve accordingly.

Chatbots need training, and users need to be carefully onboarded so that they understand the constraints of the software they are interacting with. But even with these limitations, reducing complicated, confusing processes down to a normal conversation is potentially very powerful. Worldwide, we send over 23 billion text messages a day. Texting is the most widely used mode on smartphones and over 90% of the text messages are read in under 3 minutes. Whatsapp, the most popular messaging app reported that they are now handling over 30 billion messages daily. Shocking!

Imagine how much simpler doing your taxes, engaging with bank processes, booking your ticket, communicating & learning a complicated piece of software in your company, knowing your company HR policies, interacting with external customer care — could be with a friendly robo-advisor over text messaging! Consider ordering a pizza — traditionally done by calling the restaurant and verbally order over phone; which is labor intensive, replaced with apps — which are time consuming in nature for order processing. Enter chatbots; which combines the best of both the worlds fast, convenient way to place an order while still having a conversation at front end while order ready is done at back-end.

#Uber, #NBA, #TacoBell, #CNN, #H&M, #Nike, #Quartz, #Unicef, #Barbie, #Citi Bank etc are some of the 1200+ large corporations which are already using chatbots.

Interestingly, an average human speaks 150 words per minute, while can only type 40 words? 2017 was the year of conversational. AI empowerment is set to encapsulate it in 2018.

What’s the predictive future of Chatbots?

1. Advances in AI development will impact Chatbots

2017 has gone by and we haven’t found any Chatbot that can pass the Turing test yet. But there are some exciting advances in AI development. The AI developed by Elon Musk, went in for competing against the world’s best players in Dota2 and won with ease. The most important news would be the new paper published by Google DeepMind regarding AlphaGo Zero. It was created without using data from human games and became stronger than any previous version. The release of AlphaGo Zero could potentially change how we will develop AI software in the future. It means that data would become less critical, and the key would be finding use cases where you could get a high volume of iterations, so the AI system could iterate fast enough to improve itself. For chatbot development, this is a significant advantage due to the massive level of conversations a chatbot could perform with users. Though we still have to figure out how to validate the answers. I predict in 2018 we will see more advances in AI that can improve significantly the conversational capabilities of chatbots

2. Voice Experiences Going Mainstream

2017 has been an excellent year for Voice Interfaces due to the effort from Big Corps like Amazon and Google to pushing forward the Smart Speakers market. According to official data Amazon has already sold more than 20M Echo devices and with more than 20K skills available on Alexa Store. Google, on the other hand, is trying to make its assistant available on all Android devices like Smartphones, Androidwear, Smart tv, Smart speaker, etc.

I think in 2018 this trend will continue; we might see some early success from a few voice bots.

3. Blockchain the Surprising Ally for Chatbot

In 2017 we all have seen the hyper-growth of Cryptocurrencies where Bitcoin and Ethereum are in the headline of every major media news. Bitcoin has already passed the 18k dollars milestone. Bubble or not, we can see blockchain is rapidly changing the technology landscape.

Some players in the chatbot space have already started to toy around with this new technology. Companies & Governments are toyed to build their own crypto-token to build virtual economy inside its messaging platform, companies are also betting big on the blockchain technology to incentivize their network of advice givers to use the bot platforms and continue the relationship with the learners.

With the continuous growth of blockchain, I can see that in 2018 more chatbot companies will take advantage of cryptocurrencies to strengthen their value proposition.

4. Social Messenger Applications will aggressively drive Chatbot Marketing

“Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking” Mark Zuckerberg. But there are only a few platforms that people are messaging on. Credence Research recently predicted enterprises would transmit two trillion messages a year by 2017 to create a market worth $78m by 2022

72% of U.S smartphone users use less than 7 apps in a day. This created a need for existing platforms to step up, and large platforms started letting businesses build platforms on top of them. Facebook reports that there are over 10,000 developers on their platform developing chatbots. Slack, world’s fastest growing business tool is reportedly investing $80 million in slack-bot startups. Chatbots allow the flexibility to use an app without actually installing it on your phone.

5. Chat Bots influence on Customer Insights will grow, predictability of user actions will increase.

When Chatbots are used to gather customer insight they can improve on all stages of your marketing funnel. Chatbots can store information about the kind of questions that the customer asks -> respond with the back dated information available & by reading through a large amount of data in a quick amount of time -> predict the user actions -> escalate the conversation if need be and resolve it at the best possible pace.

Google’s DeepMind, is creating an AI that can learn from what it has done in the past. A competent marketing team knows that after collecting analytics they need to be acted on and the cycle of constant improvement continues. Advanced chatbots are starting to automate this process and improve themselves by learning from previous conversations and are able to answer more questions.

For now, at least people are still smarter than chatbots, and marketers are still continually optimizing their chatbots based on how users respond to its replies, but this is set to change.

6. Reach of Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence will increase across all domains from 2018.

Consider this statistic from Gartner, that artificial intelligence will amount to 85% of customer relationships by 2020. “AI is not new to marketing. It actually began with automation of lots of marketing tasks that were initially done manually,” says David Geer, TNW writer.

Chatbots are going to get a lot smarter, with speculation, imagine a chatbot that was indistinguishable from a human. It could run millions of algorithms in real time and using analytics devise a strategy to convert every prospect individually. In today’s sensitive and polarized online world, it will take some trial and error before AI chatbots master the delicacies of polite conversation. Microsoft AI Tay has already taught us the unpredictable nature of AI in less than 24 hours of its launch.

7. Cost of Chatbots will get cheaper as the adoption of it increases across domains.

Facebook’s decision to let third-party applications build chatbots in their messenger platform has drastically lowered the price. Companies like Kore, give access to development of individual chatbots to fit the customer need, which are simple to create, structured, easy to use without much programming fed into them but through predetermined menu options, they let the customer, browse, interact, or make a purchase — such platforms will eventually bring down the cost for making a bot.

Companies need to stay on top of developments like these to remain competitive.

My hope & my version of Idealistic future:

By 2018 end,

  1. More than 10% of IT hires in customer service will mostly write scripts for bot interactions.
  2. Startups will overtake Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft in driving the artificial intelligence economy with disruptive business solutions.
  3. Artificial Intelligence platform services will cannibalize revenues for 30% of market-leading companies.

References:

  1. Images from ‘Google Images’ for Chatbots.
  2. IBM report on ‘Chatbot Trends to look for in 2018’
  3. Business Insider article on ‘Chatbots of the future’

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— Thank You!

— Phani Marupaka

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