The hoopla behind bots, just hype or worth watching out for?

Jun 2, 2017

The world going botty all of a sudden. And is it time for you to take notice?

From a humble software program that could efficiently do repetitive tasks without fanfare, bots are now touted to be the next best thing after cable TV: Convenience with a capital C, ironing out all kinks and organizing your life like never before. What is the hoopla all about?

Evolution

What began as an unassuming software program that quietly worked in the background carrying out automated tasks for a program, is now slowly coming into the spotlight. Everyone now wants to own a piece of this little program that would do all the online grunt work without complaints, and continue with the same enthusiasm and steady competence it started out with. And if in the near future this hard working bot comes wrapped in Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Understanding, Speech Recognition and other leading edge technologies as part of its arsenal, then goody – it would be able to do cool stuff such as hold a conversation with different bots in other systems or respond to its environment and learn on the job.

Imagine a day where your world is run by intelligent bots quietly whirring into action, anticipating requirements and getting things done while you go about your daily life.

  • A scheduler bot reminding you of your 2 p.m. meeting, and alerting others in the group using an integrated messaging system.
  • A teacher bot residing in the school website helping a child learn math and science concepts, conducting assessment tests, mailing results to teachers to track progress and assigning further tasks based on progress made and the level of understanding.
  • A content bot curating information from the net and from a company’s database and uses it to create a presentation/report/document.
  • A household bot ensuring lights are switched off, bills are paid and the fridge is well stocked by coordinating with the various devices that are part of the Internet of Things ecosystem.

The possibilities are endless.

The present

Way back in 2000, a chatbot named SmarterChild embedded in AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and MSN Messenger programs could carry on a meaningful conversation with its human users. Then, it was just a novelty factor that quietly had its turn on entertainment value and soon blinked off the public radar. In the intervening years however, the whole world prefers to use chatbots to provide information at real time to its customers through websites, mobile apps, messaging service and telephone. Satisfied with its efficient information dispersal, bots are now being created to carry out other roles such as virtual assistants, translators, and even social bots. Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa and Facebook M are just some of the bots that are changing the rules of the game.

If we are to believe the news and views floating around, bots could be the ultimate marketing tool that could garner information from multiple channels and generate reports on what customers like best. Being lite and nimble, bots may eventually replace clunky websites and space hogging mobile applications. Average smartphone users in US now barely download apps indicating that app market has reached a saturation point. This receding interest could work in a bot’s favor as it could easily deliver what an app does at less cost and effort involved. This means a user doesn’t need to bother with download, install, configure or even update versions of app from time to time. Bots offer a seamless experience and even does all the dreary work on its own.

Bots becoming mainstream

Creating, managing and hosting bots have become easier, thanks to the availability of a plethora of tools on and off various bot platforms. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are building bot-like services. These software biggies want bots to be the next big thing since cable TV and are striving to make its usage more mainstream. One way to drive its widespread use and acceptance is to make it ubiquitous. This could be a reason why IBM, Microsoft, Facebook and Google have offered free advanced development tools & frameworks and vast amounts of research data to interested developers or enthusiast to develop bots. Since April this year when Facebook opened its messenger to bot developers, more than 33,000 bots have been created on its platform.

Bots influence seen in other space besides business

Any business can now create or buy a bot and plonk it on to their official website and mobile applications to communicate with their customers and deliver information at real time. Presently, the service industry in at least 6 countries is actively using bots. In another three years, over 85% of customer interactions will be with a bot or an intuitive AI instead of a human.

And it’s not just the commercial world that is recognizing the benefit of automation and bots. Chatbots residing in messaging platforms such as Facebook and Slack provide a new way for a user to interact with an organization and its apps. Whereas earlier the interactions were restricted to just one user and the bot, thanks to Facebook’s new chat extensions launched in April this year, Messenger bots can now be used in group chats. Members of a group present in Messenger can use a bot to finalize on a picnic location and decide on the food menu, or surf for gifts online and confirm which is the perfect one to present to the boss, or simply watch a cricket match together online and get the bot to fetch snippets about a particular player, country or even a team.

In the United Kingdom, scientists have created a Dylan bot that has learnt to write its own folk lyrics. From weather bots, social bots, news bots, ecommerce bots, and bot advisors, the stage and scope for bots will get more and more extensive and correspondingly more complex with time.

The future

Internet slowly grew over the years to become an integral part of our life. In the same way, bots show the potential for evolution. It will be able to handle simple to complex interactions and functions, form its own function-specific communities and inbuilt service centers that would service dedicated group of user communities.

Already, Google has taken one step in that direction. In May this year, Google launched a new service, Chatbase, a chatbot analytics platform for bot developers. This friendly neighborhood bot consultant provides analytics and suggestions that will help developers “fix” their bots so that they could deliver better customer experience.

In conclusion, bots are here to stay. Steadily evolving in sophistication, they are going to be a regular part of our life thanks to the convenience they will bring in their wake. You already are using bots one way or the other and there’s no harm checking out what more is there on the bot bandwagon.

– Orion Team

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