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Chatbots - An Introduction

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It's the latest buzz word in the world of technology and everybody is talking about them. But what are chatbots really? What do they do apart from...ummm, chatting? And why is every other company suddenly jumping on to the chatbot bandwagon?
If you've been wondering about this new trend, you're not alone. Allow us to guide you through this exciting new world...

Published in: Technology
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Chatbots - An Introduction

  1. 1. © GETSKILLA 2016 CHATBOTS: AN INTRODUCTION It's the latest buzz word in the world of technology and everybody is talking about them. But what are chatbots really? What do they do apart from...ummm, chatting? And why is every other company suddenly jumping on to the chatbot bandwagon? If you've been wondering about this new trend, you're not alone. Allow us to guide you through this exciting new world... Hitesh Ananth & Geetanjali Shrivastava
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS WHAT IS A CHATBOT? 1 WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL ABOUT CHATBOTS? 2 SURELY BOTS CAN'T BE USED IN EVERY INDUSTRY? 2 SALES & MARKETING 3 FINANCE 4 NEWS 5 EDUCATION 5 PSYCHOLOGY 6 MEDICINE 6 ALL THIS IS VERY NICE, BUT WHAT ABOUT TAY? 7 SO WHERE CAN I FIND THESE CHATBOTS? 8 FACEBOOK 8 KIK 8 SLACK 9 TELEGRAM 9 TWITTER 9 WECHAT 9 WHATSAPP 9 SO THIS IS IT? HUMANS ARE TO BE OVERRUN BY BOTS? 10 OK, SO HOW DO I GET ONE OF THESE BOTS? 10
  3. 3. © GETSKILLA 2016 WHAT IS A CHATBOT? C H A T B O T / T Ʃ A T B ɒ T / noun plural noun: chat-bots - a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet. "chatbots often treat conversations like they're a game of tennis: talk, reply, talk, reply"
  4. 4. 2 WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL ABOUT CHATBOTS? If you thought that chatbots have suddenly popped up out of nowhere, you're wrong. The first chatbot, Eliza, was built in 1966 at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory by Joseph Weizenbaum to mimic human conversation. Modelled after a Rogerian psychotherapist, Eliza worked by simple parsing and provided a parody of a conversation with a psychiatrist in the initial few minutes of the meeting. SURELY BOTS CAN'T BE USED IN EVERY INDUSTRY? People are relying more and more on messaging apps, like Facebook messenger, Slack and Telegram. Is it surprising then, that an industry which can offer services through a messaging platform shifts to bots? Especially when people are moving away from the Web and becoming increasingly reticent about downloading new apps? If companies could communicate to existing clients and potential customers through the various chat interfaces already being used, then it's a win-win situation both ways!
  5. 5. 3 With increasing research on AI, natural language processes and machine learning (something Eliza was doing already, way back in 1966), bots are getting more and more efficient with each passing day. Here's how bots are already being used in different industries: SALES & MARKETING The sales industry is the biggest user of chatbots today. Imagine this: while browsing a catalogue, if instead of simply clicking on “add to cart” for every product you like, somebody guides you through the process? Suggests similar products, compliments your choice and generally talks to you through out so that the entire process is not unlike the real world shopping experience with a pal? But better...it would be like shopping with a personal assistant who won't ask you to buy something for her too! Wouldn't that be cool?
  6. 6. 4 Since the announcement of bots in the F8 conference, the sales department of various companies are trying to cash the opportunity, like 1800-flowers. The sales bots are conversational, delivering a response the minute a question is posed, making the e-shopping experience exuberantly less time consuming! Chatbots can be powerful not just during actual transactions, but also to reach out to potential customers. As Asaf Amir, CEO of Betterbrand says: “Chatbots are proving to be especially effective for marketing. They successfully mimic the one-on- one interactions people have with their friends and family, offering recommendations and calls-to-action that feel more like word of mouth than advertising.” FINANCE Ever opened the Financial Times and felt like you were lost in a deluge of information? You aren't alone...there are plenty of people like you, who are only interested in getting the exact piece of information they are seeking, without delving into the how and why of it. A chatbot could give you updates on the ongoing dips and raises of the market of various companies in a simple and concise manner. And why just the stock market? Chatbots are particularly effective in communicating information about banks and the services they offer. Absa Bank, a subsidiary of Barclay Africa, for instance is piloting a chatbot. According to Jan Moganwa, Chief Executive of Personal & Business Customer Solutions at Barclays Africa, chatbots can answer simple customer questions quickly, freeing up staff to focus on more complex customer issues that require deeper human insight. Bots like MyKai enable you to watch your money and plan personal budgets. MyKai is astute enough to understand very specific questions and can even tell you exactly how much money you spent at Starbucks this month! Facebook's own bot inside Messenger, M (much like the ubiquitous Lady M) is being developed to act as your personal assistant. A very efficient assistant that can purchase items, get gifts delivered, book restaurants, and make travel arrangements.
  7. 7. 5 You might soon be transferring money to a friend in a different country with the help of a financial bot sitting inside your favorite chatting platform! NEWS CNN, one of the first news organizations to adopt the bot culture, rolled out their chatbot in an attempt to reach a wider audience and offer readers a carefully curated selection of articles based on their preference. Though not as conversational as other chatbots, news bots like CNN and Wallstreet Journal, try to understand the readers' preferences by asking pertinent questions and tweaking search results over time to offer articles closest to the readers' interests. A relatively less explored domain, chatbots in the news industry are still young and have a long way to go before they capture the readers' imagination. EDUCATION Will bots replace teachers in classes? You wondered about that when the first few education apps were launched. The apps haven't succeeded in replacing teachers, but bots might just succeed here as well! An experiment by Ashok Goel, a Georgia Tech professor, proved that chatbots could be used in the parameter of education in the near future. Professor Goel hired a teaching assistant named Jill Watson who was usually not be present in the classroom settings but would answer questions posted by students online. It was only after the final exams, that the class got to know that Jill was not any ordinary person but an automated chatterbot who helped professors and TAs by answering questions and thus reducing their work load. Goel tells that he gets more than 10000 question a semester and most of them are repetitive. To reduce the burden of typing the same answer again and again, the professor created Jill. He rolled out the bot to students only after using the bot for a month to answer to questions where the bot was 97 % confident about the answer. Questions that were a bit more complicated were reserved for other human TAs. Lets hope Goel doesn't regret his decision when Jill takes over and he loses his job!
  8. 8. 6 PSYCHOLOGY Eliza, the first chatbot, though created to study natural language processes, inspired people so much that soon they were confiding to her in the same way they would to their psychotherapist. Of course this was in 1950. If you chatted with her today, you wouldn't have the same reaction, since she seems to be very cold, distant and rude by today's norms. She does not improvise her responses as per need and goes with what the script says. Chatbots today are far more engaging and encouraging, using all kinds of stimuli to encourage the user to keep talking to them. The next big psychology boom of the bots and AI industry was SimSensei, a virtual psychotherapist. In this software a person is given a basic full psychiatric test. Later the person is made to sit in front of the virtual therapist and talk about their problems. SimSensei does not just comprehend and analyse what is being told but also monitors facial reactions and is capable of detecting the smallest twitch which most human beings would ignore. MEDICINE No we are not joking. After all, Eliza was based on the Rogerian psychotherapist principle for natural language processing using patterns and parodied scripts. Medical companies have tried to launch apps that help patients with their daily medication, behavior coaching etc. However, researches conducted on these health apps and their efficiencies proved them to not be very effective. People seldom follow the app’s instructions. It remains one of the other few apps on their phones whose value is outweighed by gaming or video surfing apps. Bots are on a winning streak here as well, for they (unlike apps) can actually remind people to take their medication, instruct them about their diet and workout. A conversation inside a messaging platform is far more efficient than a notification which can be swiped away. The chatbot, in a certain sense is like having a virtual nurse or a virtual personal trainer and it appeals to most people to have a person reminding them to take care of themselves. The University Malaysia Pahang has submitted a proposal to develop a chatbot which can help diabetic patients by giving them advice and guiding them on exercises and diets without visiting a hospital.
  9. 9. 7 Pharmaceutical companies are also experimenting with bots to improve business and streamline the process of placing bulk and executing bulk orders. Soon, patients too, can search for medicines or upload a doctor’s prescription specifying the quantity and type of medication required. After follow up questions of where, when, what and how many, the delivery will take place to suit the patient's requirements and schedule. ALL THIS IS VERY NICE, BUT WHAT ABOUT TAY? Yes, we met Tay once. She was rather avant-garde and often got carried away with her comments. Positioned to chat with young millennials in the 18 to 24 year-old demographic, Tay was unfortunately a victim of malicious humans who manipulated her and taught her to start spewing racial comments. A big embarrassment for Microsoft. However, unlike Frankenstein, Microsoft has not only taken responsibility for the debacle of their first chatbot, they have
  10. 10. 8 taken her offline and are working to teach her to be more prudent in her future interactions with humans! Nadella, a staunch believer in the future of bots and artificial intelligence, urged his team to keep working on Tay and other bots, with the aim of making bots omnipresent. The future, as Nadella sees it, is with the bots and everybody will want to create a bot - not just developers, but also car companies, beauty salons, dry cleaners and even sandwich shop owners! SO WHERE CAN I FIND THESE CHATBOTS? Over 2.5 billion people on various messaging apps, a figure expected to nearly double in the next few years, making it nearly 50% of the world's population. the young millennials spend much more time chatting on their smartphones than browsing social network sites. It is thus hardly surprising that chatbots are popping up on all the popular messaging platforms. FACEBOOK Facebook Messenger bots are the most popular bots since the 2016 F8 conference. Chatbots have been around on Messenger since last year and offer a wide range of services from flower delivery to weather information. With over 11 000 bots since F8, if you haven't interacted with a Messenger bot yet, you are missing something! Some of the most popular bots on Facebook Messenger include: 1-800-Flowers, Spring, Wallstreet Journal, HealthTap and KLM. KIK Kik, an instant messenger application for mobile devices from the Canadian company Kik Interactive, launched a bot store earlier this year. With 70% of its 275 million users coming from North America, aged between 13 and 24, Kik is strategically placed to reach out to the hottest demographic targeted by brands. Kik was allowing brands to use broadcast bots as early as 2014 and now allows developers to create their own bot on the Kik platform. Sephora and H&M amongst other brands have chatbots on Kik.
  11. 11. 9 SLACK Slack, the most popular work chat app, owes much of its success to bots. Chatbots on Slack have an identity of their own, they are after all bot users! Slack bots are there to increase your efficiency by helping your schedule meetings, organize documents, pay accolades to team mates for good work or just slack off and play poker to destress! There's even a Slack bot that lets you order ice creams! You aren't on Slack yet? What you're waiting for? TELEGRAM Telegram, a messaging app from Russia, with over 100 million users also has a bot store and bot platform since June 2015. With thousands of bots, including news alerts, football updates, weather reports and even poll updates, Telegram has its bot act fine-tuned! Some of the most popular bots on Telegram include Movies bot, Open Street Map bot, Pronunciation and Translator bot (oh yeah, Google you have competition!). TWITTER Twitter bots have been around for some time and while most of them are automated bots that do nothing more than follow accounts and RT posts based on key words and hash tags, some of them can actually fool you into believing that its a human account! Microsoft's Tay was also rolled out on Twitter. Some of the friendlier Twitter bots includes The Nice Bot who tries to combat cyberbullying by posting nice tweets every 30 seconds. WECHAT WeChat, a text and voice messaging service developed in China with 700 million active users (of which more than 70 million are outside China) has had chatbots on its platform much before the current hype started. Referred to as “public accounts” the bots on WeChat are being used to do everything from shopping for clothes to booking doctors' appointments! WHATSAPP Whatsapp, the world's most popular chatting platform rolled out their first bot WhatsBot, a personal assistant that combined AI, location data and mapping data to suggest convenient locations for rendez-vous with friends, family or colleagues. Unfortunately, WhatsBot ran into issues soon after its launch and Whatsapp had to roll it back.
  12. 12. 10 SO THIS IS IT? HUMANS ARE TO BE OVERRUN BY BOTS? Let's not exaggerate, shall we? Yes, bots are here to stay. Yes, you are going to see and interact with bots on every conceivable messaging platform in the next few years. No, there's no running away from them. But no, bots aren't going to overrun the human population! Bots are and will always remain bots, essentially robotic in their nature and interactions. As long as humans exist, there will always be a need for meaningful conversations and a human connection, something bots are not likely to provide by their very nature of not being humans! Bots were developed to listen and obey, to perform tasks for humans and make their lives easier. The chatbots we're now using just ensure that the task gets done efficiently, albeit with a dash of chattering. So even though that teaching assistant bot answer all your questions and the shopping assistant bot says just the right things to make you feel better about that new dress, you won't talk to them because they provide you with engaging conversation. So though the bots are here to stay, don't worry they won't take away your job...at least not yet! OK, SO HOW DO I GET ONE OF THESE BOTS? In the world of chatbots, you don't get a bot, you start chatting with one! Most platforms now have a bot store, from where you can browse and start conversations. Facebook, doesn't have a bot store yet, so it is difficult to find a bot especially on the desktop. If you are on the mobile app though, a search for an existing bot like 1-800-Flowers will show it as “Bots and Business.” Another way to spot a Messenger bot is to look for the lighting-bolt (the messenger symbol) on the bot's profile photo, indicating that the user is active.
  13. 13. 11 Finding a bot on Kik is easier - in your main chat list, all you need to do is search for people and select Bot Shop. It will redirect you to their bot store. Similarly, you can also check out the bot stores on Slack and Telegram. And if you're just feeling exploratory, hop over to Bot List, which lists chatbots on all the platforms!

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