Prime Insight
Prime Insight

The Chatbot Revolution

Posting date: 25 July 2019
Sylvia McCoy our consultant managing the role

Love Them Or Hate Them, Chatbots Are Here To Stay

Whether you love or hate chatbot applications, research shows that you are likely to encounter chatbots more frequently in the future. In fact, a  March 2019 study by Salesforce Research titled ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ shows that 53% of service companies expect to be using chatbots by the end of 2020. This is up from 23% currently – a massive rise of 136% growth. With the benefits that chatbot give to businesses and consumers, this technology is here to stay.

In this article, we examine the pros and cons of chatbots.

What Is A Chatbot?

Chatbots are computer programmes that simulate human conversation. They may interact by voice (such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa) or by text (like the virtual assistants Amy and Alex Ingram from x.ai). Chatbots mimic human interaction – answering questions and responding to instructions, or engaging in conversation.

While we consider chatbots as new technology, the first chatbot was developed by Professor Joseph Weizenbaum of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the mid-1960s. The programme known as ELIZA simulates a psychotherapist, using keywords and pattern matching to interact and converse with the user.

Why Use Chatbots?

People and businesses use chatbots for many similar reasons.

For people, a chatbot provides convenience and saves time. It is easier to ask a machine to do something than to key in an instruction – hence the growing popularity of tools such as Alexa, Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana.

For businesses, chatbots boost productivity. Simple routine tasks can be conducted by chatbots instead of blocking valuable human time. If you have ever conversed with an online helpdesk, you will probably have been taken through a script by a chatbot. Only if the help you require is too complex will you then interact with a human.

The use of chatbots means that businesses can offer basic services to consumers 24/7. Instant communication, without the need to wait for a human to answer your call while you listen to annoying ‘on-hold music’.

Chatbots Are Everywhere

Chatbots are used in a multitude of applications and for a growing range of needs. In the home, they enable more efficient use of smart technology to monitor and control environmental factors such as heat, light and air. As we’ve seen, businesses use them to aid customer service desks. They are also used to improve efficiencies across functionalities. For example, AI assistants can respond to emails, book meetings, and run calendars – saving time and costs.

While providing so many benefits to users, chatbots also come in for some criticism. Many people would describe them as inhuman and lacking empathy. They are unable to solve more complex issues – and have you ever tried to negotiate with Alexa after it has misunderstood a request? Infuriating is not the word for the ‘conversation’ you have with the Amazon chatbot.

However, many of these disadvantages are dissipating. Advances in AI technology and machine learning capabilities are allowing chatbots to become more intelligent and emulate human responses. 

The rate at which these advances take place will depend upon several factors, not least of which is the availability and motivation of skilled people to provide the impetus for improvement and further advances in AI and machine learning capabilities. As the amount of data that chatbots collect increases, their ability to take that data and learn from it will be the only thing that holds them back from delivering on promise.

Here are a couple of examples of the direction in which chatbots can take society.

MedWhat

Self-diagnosis has become something of a pastime as more information has become available online. Search for your list of symptoms, and discover from which condition or disease you are suffering. Who needs to consult with a physician? As self-diagnosis has increased, so, too, has the prevalence of misdiagnosis.

MedWhat is a chatbot that makes diagnosis faster, easier, and more transparent. Behind it is machine learning, which enables the chatbot to provide increasingly accurate diagnoses based upon the human response it receives. It also analyses vast amounts of medical data and research to increase its medical expertise. This is chatbot technology that combines machine learning and intelligent NLP systems – a very exciting combination.

Endurance

Endurance is a chatbot designed to help dementia sufferers, their families, and their physicians.

Often, dementia sufferers are inhibited by the frustration and shame caused by short-term memory loss that discourages them from conversing. To combat this, Russian technology company Endurance has developed a companion chatbot.

The Endurance chatbot allows people with dementia and Alzheimer’s to talk to it, and identifies differences in speech patterns that indicate memory impairment. Being cloud-based, the chatbot enables family members and physicians to review communication logs and better diagnose memory deterioration.

Plenty Of Work For Skilled Data Scientists And Designers

The potential for chatbots to make real change in the world is astounding. Whether in the field of commerce, health, business or leisure, chatbots are likely to become the way in which the world operates. It is a similar revolution to the one the world experienced when it transformed from written letters to telephone, and from faxes to email. The difference, of course, is that with modern technology chatbots can learn and improve rapidly, and provide a satisfying interactive experience.

Though chatbots are disruptive to human jobs (replacing receptionists and helpdesk staff, for example), they will also create job opportunities.

Connect with Sylvia McCoy

Though chatbots are disruptive to human jobs (replacing receptionists and helpdesk staff, for example), they will also create job opportunities.

At this time, chatbots cannot perfectly mimic human conversation. But, as they are supplied with more data and benefit from improvements in AI and machine learning algorithms, it is likely that increasing numbers of chatbots will provide a more human experience. This will require a lot of human help, and the skill sets of data scientists (link to jobs page) and UI designers are likely to be in increasing demand to enable chatbots to travel an accelerating developmental curve.

Join the chatbot conversation. Get in touch with the Digital Team at Prime Insight  to learn more about the opportunities in the digital environment.

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